The recent surge of interest in the moon has raised concerns about the need for legal protections to safeguard the lunar surface and its cultural heritage. With upcoming lunar missions planned by both nations and private companies, there is a growing recognition of the need for lunar laws to address the potential negative impacts of human activities on the moon. In March 2023, the For All Moonkind Institute on Space Law and Ethics was announced during a meeting of the legal subcommittee of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), marking a significant step towards addressing this need.
The For All Moonkind Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating for the protection of off-world heritage sites and exploring the ethical implications of activities in space, was established as a collaborative effort between the legal community, policymakers, and space agencies. Recognizing the lack of specific laws preventing the destruction or disturbance of sites like the Apollo landing sites on the moon, the Institute aims to fill this gap by advocating for clearer rules of the road for lunar activities.
The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 establishes guidelines for activities in outer space, emphasizing the peaceful use of the moon and prohibiting the claiming of territory on celestial bodies. However, these principles are vague and have not been practically applied to address the complexities of human activities on the moon, especially with the involvement of multiple parties from different nations and private companies.
To address this challenge, the For All Moonkind Institute, in collaboration with the Secure World Foundation, has produced a Lunar Policy Handbook, which aims to provide clearer guidelines for responsible behavior on the moon. The handbook covers a wide range of issues, including the inclusion of biological contaminants, such as tardigrades, in lunar landers, and the potential violation of the prohibition on claiming territory in space when protecting cultural heritage sites on the moon.
One of the ethical concerns related to lunar activities is the inclusion of biological contaminants in lunar landers. While scientists and space agencies are interested in studying the potential for life on the moon, there is a risk of unintentional contamination of the lunar surface with Earth’s microorganisms. The Lunar Policy Handbook emphasizes the need for thorough sterilization procedures to prevent such contamination and protect the pristine nature of the lunar environment.
Another ethical concern is the protection of cultural heritage sites on the moon. The Apollo landing sites, where the first human footsteps on the moon were made, are of great historical and cultural significance. However, there is a risk of unintentional damage or disturbance to these sites during future lunar missions. The Lunar Policy Handbook highlights the importance of respecting and preserving these sites, and suggests guidelines for responsible behavior to ensure their protection while avoiding any potential violation of the prohibition on claiming territory in space.
The establishment of the For All Moonkind Institute and the development of the Lunar Policy Handbook reflect the growing recognition of the significance of shared cultural heritage on the moon. By promoting responsible behavior and fostering better relations among nations and private companies engaged in space activities, the Institute aims to contribute to the sustainable and ethical exploration and use of the moon.
Michelle Hanlon, the founder and CEO of the For All Moonkind Institute, emphasized the need for proactive measures to protect the moon’s cultural heritage and promote responsible space activities. “The moon is a shared resource for all of humanity, and it is our responsibility to ensure its protection for current and future generations,” said Dr. Han. “We need clear rules and guidelines to guide our actions on the moon, and the For All Moonkind Institute is dedicated to advocating for these protections.”
The establishment of the For All Moonkind Institute has garnered extensive support from various stakeholders in the international community, including space agencies, policymakers, and legal experts alike.