After becoming the first person to walk to both poles in 1989, Robert Swan, stated: “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”
Since then, many threats to a sustainable human presence on Earth have become exacerbated, such as climate change, deforestation, pollution, biodiversity loss, and inequality.
As a call to action for the nations of the world, in 2015, the United Nations (UN) established seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to foster economic and social prosperity while simultaneously protecting the environment for future generations.
While efforts to preserve Earth are underway, a focus on sustainability, to prevent the mistakes made on Earth from reoccurring on the Moon, is necessary when considering the establishment of human settlements on other celestial bodies.
Several space agency, industry, and private organization roadmaps have established visions of the Moon as having a lunar base with a continuous human presence. The purposes of these missions range from scientific and technological to resource utilization and cultural exploration. However, no current roadmaps or rationales for returning to the Moon establish clear sustainability goals to protect these rationales long-term.
Within this context, we have worked with the International Space University faculty and external advisors within space agencies, companies, and organizations to develop fifteen Lunar Sustainability Goals, with corresponding targets and drivers modeled after the UN SDGs, to provide guidelines for long-term cooperation, environmental preservation, and human protection for currently planned lunar missions.
Our working group, which is comprised of 19 Masters students from 11 countries with prior expertise ranging from medicine and law to engineering and architecture, developed these Lunar Sustainability Goals (LSGs) from November 2018 to March 2019 to complement existing roadmaps, address existing gaps, and complement the interests, skills, and experience of our group members.
The first critical step in establishing a sustainable lunar base is the establishment of a strong Earth-centric rationale for returning to the Moon. Therefore, this project begins by describing the economic, technological, scientific, cultural, security, political, and legal rationales for returning to the Moon. These rationales are balanced with rationales for not returning to the Moon that threaten sustainability, which are then responded to by our team.
This project also reviews current roadmaps for returning to the Moon and consolidates them into a general roadmap on which the LSGs can be applied. This roadmap provides an overview of the prevailing plans for lunar missions, while considering alternative directions
Lastly, the LSGs are described, with corresponding targets, drivers, and analyses that describe the problems each goal is designed to address. It is with these goals that we hope to evoke new ways of thinking about lunar settlement for decision-makers within the space community and inspire future generations to take care of the Moon as seriously as we care for the Earth.