Moon Society Response to the
Lunar Beijing Declaration
July 27, 2006, ILEWG* 8

[*International Lunar Exploration Working Group]

2006.08.02 - The news from the ILEWG 8 Conference in Beijing, July 27th, was encouraging. In a declaration issued this day and signed by all the attendees, a Lunar Decade is declared. Indeed, "within the next two years, four independent space craft (SELENE, Changé 1, Chandrayaan 1 and NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter) will orbit the Moon " These four missions will kickoff what promises to be an unprecedented period of robotic lunar exploration.

The Conferees are to be congratulated for their realization that these happy concurrencies provide an unprecedented opportunity for international cooperation and coordination on several fronts. Internationally coordinated analyses to facilitate the validation of data sets produced by different instruments, enhancing the usefulness of information acquired by multiple spacecraft

Concentrating on a small number of specific targets would facilitate the cross-calibration of different instruments. If all the orbiters monitor solar flux data, cross correlation of this data will improve calibration of all the instruments dependent on knowledge of solar fluxes. This is an opportunity to coordinate development and utilization of a common, improved Lunar Coordinates Reference Frame.

All missions should archive final mission data products in a PDS-compatible form, to implement international standards for access

Common standards for S-band spacecraft communication, with potential for common tracking operations and backup support to other missions, if necessary. A coordinated campaign to provide data cross-check and validation for modern-era missions that have overlap in coverage, with data and experience from Past missions

The conferees seem to have realized that the final impact of orbiters on the Moon's surface is not the end of the mission but the final mission experiment. "Information about the five impact events and subsequent impacts of probes should be coordinated with other ... missions."

Standardized telecommunications, navigation, and VLBI [Very Long Baseline Interferometer] support for future orbiter, lander and rover missions. We are given "the opportunity to embark some payload technologies for navigation and guidance on orbiters and landers as part of a Global Lunar Navigation & Positioning System."

Future orbiters could be placed on frozen stable orbits where they can participate in a joint infrastructure for data relay, aid to navigation and lunar Internet, in addition to landed surface beacons.

The series of landers planned by agencies in the period 2010-2015 (the second half of the Lunar Decade - "the subsequent phase of Lunar Global Robotic Village") will provide an unique opportunity to set up "a geophysical network on the Moon" for which the conferees "recommend the creation of an international scientific working group for definition of a common standard for future Moon network instruments"

What's in it for us

We see this declaration, and the recommendations for international coordination of efforts in a joint assault on the many remaining mysteries of the Moon, as something momentous. We seriously doubt that such a methodical and well thought out collaboration between the spacefaring nations involved would have risen by itself. If any ILEWG conference justified the existence of ILEWG, this one certainly did. We urge NASA, the Chinese Space Agency, the Indian Space Research Association, and Japan's space agency to take all of these recommendations to heart, establish closer ties between all the respective Moon mission teams, and make every effort to coordinate their efforts on the scientific levels addressed by ILEWG.

Both The Lunar Reclamation Society and The Moon Society wholeheartedly embrace and endorse the declaration of the Lunar Decade and the recommendations of the Beijing conference attendees.

While we remain focused on the establishment of a permanent human presence on the Moon involved in the development of lunar resources, not just to provide their own needs but to help tackle our home planet's stubborn interwoven energy and environmental problems,

we see this declaration and the Lunar Decade as a positive sign that much of the desired "robotic footwork" will be accomplished in a timely fashion, maximizing the productivity of these already budgeted missions. Beyond these missions, will be "ground-truth" probes to the lunar polar cold traps suspected of harboring water ice and establishment of astronomical facilities on the Moon

To the extent that this level of international space mission collaboration and coordination is achieved, it will create a powerful precedent that bodes well for the future of mankind as a solar system wide species.

The individual missions involved are each within the capabilities of the respective national space agencies. But looming ahead are manned exploration and outpost establishment efforts that will truly require this kind of dedicated mutual collaboration and teamwork. It is not the USA that will create a "permanent" outpost on the Moon or launch a manned expedition to Mars. It will have to be an international effort, and that is as it should be, leaving turf battles behind us on our divided planet.


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