Credit: JAXA/NHK


The Moon is a scene of aggravated assault.

It has been flown by, orbited, crashed into, landed upon, and also stepped on.

Fast forward to now and the next few years, there’s a pilgrimage of robots and humans set to touch down on the lunar surface by different national and collaborative space agencies.

A new paper calls for consideration of the fragility and pristine nature of the lunar surface.

Signing of Outer Space Treaty.
Credit: United Nations

Immediate action

“Current international treaties are outdated and require immediate action for their update and amendment. This should be taken as an opportunity for self-reflection and potential censoring, enabling a mature, responsible, and iterated sequence of decisions prior to returning.”

That’s the view espoused by Vera Assis Fernandes of the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Manchester in the UK, that makes the case in the paper: “Ethical and Social Aspects of a Return to the Moon—A Geological Perspective.”

The paper has been published in Geosciences, an interdisciplinary, international peer-reviewed open access journal published monthly online by MDPI in Basel, Switzerland.

Assess the consequences

In preparation for the next round of exploration of the Moon and the Solar System, humankind needs time to assess the consequences, the paper suggests.

Next up to get down and dirty: China’s Chang’e-4 moon lander and rover. Credit: CNSA

For one, the paper asks, what kind of effects on the Moon and its stable and pristine environment will be caused by a return there (robotic and/or human)?

“As we plan the next steps in the cosmic venture, we also need to be able to acknowledge celestial bodies as entities that need to be respected, irrespective of their having life or not,” notes the paper.

Avenue of debate

One avenue of debate that is underscored in the paper is “an urgent need” to update and amend both the United Nations Moon Treaty of 1979 (i.e., Agreement Governing The Activities Of States On the Moon And Other Celestial Bodies) and the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 (i.e., Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies).

As pointed out in the paper, the USA, China, India, Japan and Europe are well represented, mainly by pioneering, engineering and scientific minds in terms of Moon exploration. “However, the world is a vast place with many peoples, needs, wishes, and points of view,” the researchers explain.

Wanted: mental infrastructure

From a geological view, their Moon view is that there’s need for not limiting the planning to 5 to 10 years as most businesses practice. Instead, it would allow longer term planning or at least the development of “a more solid mental infrastructure.”

Credit: NASA/ESA

“There is a need to acknowledge the Moon as an entity beyond ourselves that needs to be respected. What are the opinions of all the nations and cultures of the world on a return to the Moon? And how are the voices of their citizens being taken into consideration and included? In a globally shared endeavour, it is necessary to take into account different philosophies and approaches to what science and the cosmos are. We need to collectively look at the current world situation and think how we want it in the future!”

For a view of this informative, thought-stirring paper, go to:

“Ethical and Social Aspects of a Return to the Moon—A Geological Perspective,” go to:


One Response to “Ethical and Social Aspects of a Return to the Moon”

  • The article offers an interesting, though somewhat tortured, perspective. At one point the author suggests that exploration is in the DNA of Europeans, but not necessarily of non-western races? That’s a bit patronizing. I think the intent and concerns raised are useful for consideration (clearly, at For All Moonkind we seek to manage exploration at least in respect of historic sites in space). However, trying to amend current space law treaties is not a realistic goal – and writing that we should amend them – without further specifics – does nothing to advance the dialog. I would love to see an article written by an author with roots in a non-western nation as a counterpoint.

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