Concentrated Resources on the Moon: Implications for Policy and Law


After two decades and more of delineating lunar geology from orbit, we now know that the Moon is far from undifferentiated "magnificent desolation". Instead the maps from Clementine, LRO, Chandrayaan-1, GRAIL, and others have picked out numerous locations of especial interest. While many of these regions are widespread, other locations are quite small in area: the "Peaks of Eternal Light" near the poles, which are almost continuously illuminated by the Sun, cover only about 1 sq. km; the coldest of the cold traps at the poles (T < 40 K), which are thought to contain volatile materials from the early solar system, cover only a few sq. km; the regions richest in thorium or in iron are also quite small. Whenever a scarce resource is found - be it a scientific resource or a commercial one - disputes will arise over how, and by whom, these resources should be exploited. Deciding how to resolve these disputes are policy questions. Once multiple players are involved they will need to be considered. The imminent prospect is for lunar landers from sovereign, philanthropic, and commercial. Hence these questions will need to be addressed soon. The goals of all these players will be diverse. They will include: lunar science, astrophysics, and commercial exploitation. Not all of these goals will be compatible. Hence an international approach to lunar regulation will be needed. We discuss the issues of justice and policy that are involved in any such regulatory framework.

Meeting Name

69th International Astronautical Congress, IAC 2018 (2018: Oct. 1-5, Bremen, Germany)


History and Political Science

Keywords and Phrases

Ethics; Moon; Policy; Resources

International Standard Book Number (ISBN)


Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version


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© 2018 International Astronautical Federation (IAF), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Oct 2018