Lunar Environmental Management: Science Input Needed For Guiding Development Of Lunar Exploration And Use Policies

Margaret Race
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Lunar Environmental Management: Science Input Needed For Guiding Development Of Lunar Exploration And Use Policies
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Lunar Environmental Management: Science Input Needed for Guiding Development of Lunar Exploration and Use Policies Margaret S. Race, Chris McKay and John Rummel As the Lunar-Landed Missions Workshop examines questions about potential landing sites for future science and/or human exploration pursuits (e.g., ISRU), it has an opportunity to consider how their plans for access and research on the lunar surface can feed forward to addressing important questions about long-term sustainability and management of the lunar environment. Not only do partnerships between NASA and the commercial community offer opportunities to acquire data and samples in new ways, they also expand the potential for engaging multiple stakeholders to work cooperatively on the development of future guidelines for sustainable access and uses by all. While considering what scientific data and information might be gained from different lunar landing targets, it is also advisable to focus on what data will be needed to guide future activities, whether robotic, human, scientific or commercial in nature. There are multiple reasons for taking a long and broad view in selecting target sites and desired science that may be collected at different landing sites. Consider the following: • Under the Outer Space Treaty, there are clear policies and regulations regarding planetary protection (avoidance of harmful contamination) during exploration, but currently there are no specific guidelines or any agreed-upon process for environmental management, stewardship or responsible uses of space beyond Earth orbit, but nearer than Mars. Given the diversity of environmental conditions, knowledge gaps and anticipated activities by diverse stakeholders, considerable scientific input and deliberation will be needed to develop a workable framework. • Ongoing UN COPUOS discussions have specifically aimed at developing long-term sustainability guidelines (LTS Guidelines) applicable to both exploration and peaceful uses of outer space (http://www.thespace—but in their current form, they apply mainly to activities in Earth orbit. • COSPAR’s Panel on Exploration (PEX) has addressed questions about the future activities of multiple stakeholders on the surfaces of the Moon and other celestial bodies and the potential conflicts that may arise in protecting environments of celestial bodies. To date no specific guidelines or recommendations have been developed for environmental management on the Moon, or other non-habitable bodies. • Finally, the international Hague Space Resources Governance Working Group recently circulated preliminary results of its work outlining building blocks intended to lay the groundwork for discussions on the potential development of an international framework for the governance of space resources. It recommended “a precautionary approach with the aim of avoiding harmful impacts to space environments”— and specifically mentioned the need for “avoidance of adverse changes to designated and internationally endorsed sites of scientific interest.” Clearly, it will be important to evaluate desired landing targets from a variety of scientific perspectives, and no single mission will be able to address the diverse questions of interest to all stakeholders. Nevertheless, it is important that the science and mission communities consider their part in gathering needed information to advance not only the science outcomes, but also to contribute towards developing an approach for environmental sustainability applicable to all stakeholders involved in future exploration and uses of the lunar surface. Obviously, comprehensive mixed-use guidelines of this sort are unlikely to develop overnight. Accordingly, this presentation will discuss tentative plans for a future multidisciplinary workshop involving a mix of stakeholders who could initiate discussions of what should go into a framework, particularly for the Moon and other non-habitable bodies. In addition to identifying what important science data and other information are needed, the workshop could outline possible steps toward a preliminary framework, building upon the recommendations of relevant COSPAR PEX reports, which have already identified important issues, timelines, and environmental concerns associated with future exploration and resource utilization, Hopefully a community initiated workshop with a mix of stakeholders would could contribute incrementally towards development of a workable and balanced framework for multiple uses of planetary surfaces and resources.