We should declare a new era on the Moon because humans have become the dominant force changing its environment, scientists say
- The astronauts left behind everything from footprints to golf balls to flags
- Scientists say disturbances should be classified as a 'lunar Anthropocene'
A new era must be declared on the moon, according to scientists who say humans are now the dominant force in changing its environment.
Human activity first disturbed the Moon's pristine surface on September 13, 1959, when the Soviet Union's unmanned Luna 2 spacecraft left a crater.
In the decades that followed, more than 100 other spacecraft, including those participating in NASA's Apollo missions, landed or crashed on the Moon in at least 58 additional locations.
Astronauts have left behind everything from footprints, golf balls, flags and religious texts to bags of human waste and abandoned scientific equipment. Golf balls were hit on the moon during the Apollo 14 mission in 1971.
Geologists and anthropologists now say that these disturbances should be classified as a “lunar Anthropocene,” to recognize that humans have become the dominant force in shaping the moon’s environment.
Astronauts have left behind everything from footprints, golf balls, flags and religious texts to bags of human waste and abandoned scientific equipment. Golf balls were hit on the moon during the Apollo 14 mission in 1971
The term Anthropocene is used on Earth to describe a period since about 1950 in which human activity had a significant impact on the planet.
We've similarly disrupted deposits on the Moon's surface, which scientists call “regolith.”
Dr Justin Holcomb, co-author of the call to declare a new lunar era, from the University of Kansas, said: “When we take into account the impact of rovers, landers and human movement, it disturbs the regolith significantly.
“In the context of the new Space Race, the lunar landscape will be very different in 50 years.
“Multiple countries will be present, leading to many challenges.”
He added: “We aim to start discussions about our impact on the moon's surface before it is too late.”
In the next two years alone, five countries and several private companies plan to visit the lunar surface
In a commentary article published in the journal Nature Geoscience, experts say the Lunar Anthropocene began with the space race in the mid-20th century and will continue with an imminent new space race, which includes human plans to live on the moon and undertake mining industries.
In the next two years alone, five countries and several private companies plan to visit the lunar surface.
Since there is no atmosphere, erosion occurs much more slowly than on Earth, so records of human activity are preserved, such as footprints and tracks of rovers sent to explore the lunar surface.
Scientists want to protect “space heritage” such as spacecraft, flags, golf balls and footprints on the moon.
They also want the Lunar Anthropocene to draw attention to the protection needed for the dust and gas that envelops the Moon and the ice in its permanently shadowed regions.
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