can you save the moon largeInterest in space has reached Tim Peake levels following the British Astronaut’s pioneering stay on the International Space Station, but as we look to the stars what are the questions surrounding further space travel, and who actually owns the Moon?

Dr Chris Newman is an Expert in Space Law at the University of Sunderland, and has researched current policies on space exploration, colonisation, and sustainability, and in his latest research identified gaps in legislature on the Moon that are at risk of being exploited.

For the next instalment of the University’s free Community Lecture series, held on June 29, 2.30pm, at the Sir Tom Cowie Campus at St Peter’s, Dr Newman will talk through his research and address many of the fundamental questions on space.

Published in the prestigious academic journal Space Policy, his paper Seeking Tranquillity called for the introduction of laws in an area still based on Cold War treaties, to safeguard the future of the Moon after a surge of interest in utilising and exploring its natural resources.

He said: “Early attempts at lunar exploration involved simply crashing probes sent from the Earth into the lunar surface and measuring the force of the impact. The headline policy, perhaps understandably given the concerns of the time, prohibited the placing of nuclear weapons in outer space, including basing them on the Moon.

“It is about regulation for all space activity that has clear criteria for the scope of operations that the environment of the Moon can accommodate. In embedding sustainability at the heart of human activity on the Moon, the space faring community would be ensuring that the scar tissue of human activity does not irreparably damage our celestial sibling.”

Unlike the Earth, the Moon doesn’t possess the natural mechanisms for dealing with both natural and man-made influences so will retain these irrevocable scars on its fragile environment for the foreseeable future.

While supporting the need to use the Moon as a staging post for further space exploration, Dr Newman is not convinced there’s enough evidence of economically enriching material to consider lunar mining, but warns stalling on creating policy will end in abuse of inaction.

He added: “The stalemate that exists over the allocation of lunar property rights means that a vacuum currently exists. This vacuum may well be filled by opportunistic and speculative enterprises unconcerned with the preservation of the lunar environment.”

The University of Sunderland’s Community Lectures are open to all. Each entertaining lecture is given by authoritative speakers between May and August.

Lectures start at 2.30pm and last about one hour. There is no need to book but those attending are asked to arrive at the Prospect Building between 2pm and 2.30pm to register before the lecture begins.

There is (pay) parking in the grounds of the campus and St Peter’s Metro Station is within a few minutes walking distance. Alternatively the regular 700 bus service runs from the Park Lane Bus Station to St. Peter’s Campus itself.

For more information about the 2016 Community Lectures Series contact Leigh Johnson on (0191) 515 3169, or email events@sunderland.ac.uk

 

2016 Community Lectures Series

June 29 – Dr Chris Newman – Who owns the Moon? Space Law and the Final Frontier

August 3 – Ged Parker – How the East was Won: Attracting Nissan to Sunderland

August 24 – Matthew Storey – The Codex Amiatinus