The Secure World Foundation has joined forces with The Planetary Society in calling for an International Lunar Decade to begin in 2007. The International Lunar Decade, following in the tradition of years of focused scientific research, such as the International Geophysical Year, will create a global space agency framework. The Secure World Foundation has committed $66,000 to enhance the work The Planetary Society is doing with other international organizations to create the ILD.
"Many nations have set their sights on the Moon," said Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society. "Such worldwide interest calls for worldwide cooperation - an International Lunar Decade that will begin next year with the expected launches of Chinese and Japanese missions, and will continue until 2019, the target date set by the U.S. for a human return to the Moon. We are grateful to the Secure World Foundation for their involvement."
India, the United States, Russia, and Italy are also planning lunar missions, and the European Space Agency recently completed its SMART-1 lunar orbiter mission.
The International Lunar Exploration Working Group and the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) have already endorsed The Planetary Society's call for an International Lunar Decade, and the concept has been presented to the International Astronautical Federation General Assembly for consideration.
The Society will present the ILD concept next year to the United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). The Planetary Society is a non-governmental (NGO) consultative member of COPUOS.
"The International Lunar Decade provides an opportunity for the world to combine our talents and our dreams to develop cooperative, sustainable and secure systems for moving out into the global commons of space," said Cynda Collins Arsenault, President of the Secure World Foundation. "We are pleased to work with The Planetary Society, who has long recognized the importance of this new frontier."
An International Lunar Decade will help nurture the popular vision needed to sustain political support in each of the spacefaring nations planning lunar missions and will help further both science cooperation and mission coordination. A cohesive framework will also enable scientists from many nations - in addition to those conducting missions - to gain support for lunar studies.
The Planetary Society and Secure World Foundation hope to provide an opportunity for young scientists, particularly in developing countries, to gain more public and private support for lunar research in their nations. Both organizations believe that international cooperation will enhance peaceful exploration of space.
Calling for a unified approach has precedent in the scientific community. Previous examples include the International Geophysical Year, the International Polar Year, and the International Space Year. Just as those "years" were not always literal (some extended to twice that length), the proposed International Lunar Decade (ILD) is not exactly ten years.
The International Lunar Decade should begin in 2007 to coincide with a year that marks the 50th anniversary of Sputnik and will see the expected launches of Japan's SELENE and China's Chang'E lunar missions. The "decade" will end twelve years later in 2019 with a human mission to the Moon.
2007 is also the 40th anniversary of the Outer Space Treaty, which called for broad international cooperation in the scientific, as well as the legal, aspects of the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes.
The Planetary Society, in coordination with The Planetary Society of Japan and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), is already helping to raise public awareness of Japan's SELENE mission with the "Wish Upon the Moon" campaign. The Society is collecting names and messages to send to the Moon on SELENE.