Scientists Call to Protect Moon from Developers

Scientists Call to Protect Moon from Developers

The lunar surface is about to get crowded. 

A surge of missions – at least 22 by the end of 2026 – are planned for mining, base construction, and satellite deployment. This boom, while exciting, threatens to jeopardize unique areas crucial for astronomical research.


Scientists are urging for protections to safeguard these "Sites of Extraordinary Scientific Importance" (SESIs) on the moon. These locations offer unparalleled opportunities to peer into the cosmos's deepest mysteries.


A lunar village designed by SOM is landing in Venice this spring - The  Spaces


The Far Side: A Radio-Silent Paradise


The far side of the moon is a radio astronomer's dream. Shielded from Earth's radio waves, it offers an almost noiseless environment. From here, telescopes can peer back to a time before stars even existed, or search for signs of advanced civilizations.


However, this radio-quiet haven is also rich in helium-3, a potential fuel source for future fusion energy. This resource overlap creates a conflict – pristine sites ideal for astronomy might be sacrificed for mining endeavours.


Cold Traps: Unveiling the Universe's Secrets


Another lunar treasure – "cold traps" – are found near the north and south poles. These permanently shadowed craters, untouched by sunlight for billions of years, are some of the coldest places in the solar system.


These frigid conditions make them perfect for infrared telescopes, which require extreme cold to function optimally. Such telescopes could image Earth-sized exoplanets, and sensitive seismometers placed there could measure the moon's movement through gravitational waves.


However, the scientific value of these cold traps would be destroyed by nearby mining or construction activity.


A Call for Global Cooperation


Scientists are calling for swift action to establish protections for these irreplaceable SESIs.  The current Outer Space Treaty, dating back to 1967, predates the concept of lunar mining and offers limited safeguards.


The 2020 Artemis Accords, while promoting best practices for space exploration, are non-binding and lack key signatories like Russia and China. Additionally, these accords allow for mining and don't designate protections for research-critical areas.


The urgency is clear – scientists have a limited window, perhaps only five years, to establish protections before irreversible damage occurs.  International cooperation is essential to ensure these unique lunar sites are preserved for scientific discovery, allowing us to unlock the secrets of the early universe and potentially find evidence of life beyond Earth.


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