Jahnavi Shah

PhD Student, Planetary Science

To the Moon

Happy (belated) National Moon Day!
July 20, 2020 marked the 51st anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing!

This is going to be a short post, dedicated to a discussion focused on the future of lunar exploration that I was a part of. In October 2019, I had the opportunity to participate in the Space Generation Congress organized by the Space Generation Advisory Council in Washington, D.C. as a Canadian delegate. During the three-day meeting, the delegates worked in smaller working groups focused on different space-related topics. These included Space & Global Health, Post-ISS Activities in the Low Earth Orbit, and Space Exploration, to name a few.

I was assigned to the Space Exploration group sponsored and advised by NASA. Our working group had four points of focus, but the sub-group that I worked closely with addressed the following:
What are the merits and demerits of: 1) Single Lunar base managed collaboratively by all involved countries; 2) Multiple lunar bases managed individually by different countries.

We tackled this with some base assumptions:We tackled this with some base assumptions:

  1. Plans are already in motion internationally
  2. Sustainability is a key driver for lunar activities 
  3. Lunar activities that could be provided commercially:
    – Human exploration: medical capabilities, life support, tourism, agriculture
    – Utilities & Infrastructure: power generation, communication, shelter, transportation system, repair/manufacturing, resource mining
    – Science: Earth/planetary observation, biohazard containment, laboratories/payloads

Here is a summary of some of the points we came up with:

MeritsDemerits
Cheaper
– less expensive for iterative improvements
Standardization
– need compatible parts
Collaboration
– all scientists can work towards common goals
– analogous to the ISS
– can share infrastructure and technology
Lose the ability to explore diverse parts of the moon
Localized contaminationSingle point of failure
Large scientific range Geopolitical tensions
Single Lunar Base

Merits
Demerits
Address diverse science objectives
– can cover more ground
Lack of standards
– more difficult to collaborate on experiments
Commercial friendly Repeated infrastructure
– less cost and resource efficient
Public engagement
– nationalism
Widespread contamination
Collaboration among international space agencies and industry partners Geopolitical tensions
Multiple Lunar Bases


The end objective of the working groups was to draft up recommendations to be presented to the United Nations by SGAC. The thought behind this is to gain student and young professional perspectives on these matters.

Recommendation to: SGAC and the United Nations

Permanent human presence on the Moon should begin with a single, international base to establish a modular lunar infrastructure with common technological and operational standards between all interested parties.

To achieve this, we recommend that interested parties extend an open invitation to governments & private companies/industry to create a collaborative environment to agree upon standards, practices, and individual contributions in the form of a summit.


SGC was a fantastic learning experience and it was neat to be able to contribute ideas and write up recommendations to the UN as a part of the working group. The Space Exploration group is currently pulling together all the notes and recommendations from the four sub-groups within in order to write up a conference paper. Stay tuned for the final product, if you’re interested.

That’s all for now!

Bonus: here’s a throwback to the 50th anniversary celebrations in Houston, Texas last year.

Apollo 50th celebration at Space Center Houston, Texas (2019).

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