The moon has always served as an inspiration for humanity, and there are many potential benefits for further exploration of our planet’s rocky satellite.
But we need to establish guidelines to prevent unethical behavior on the moon, particularly regarding the use of natural resources and off-planet labor.
How humans should interact with space and celestial objects is central to the emerging field of space ethics. It’s something I’ve been involved with since 2015, when I taught my first class on consent for the use of celestial objects at Yale University’s Summer Bioethics Institute.
1. Human settlement on the moon
Some people believe establishing human settlements on the moon — and other bodies — may help lessen the environmental burden of overpopulation on Earth.
While the practical issues of survival and maintaining communication receive a lot of attention in discussions of moon settlements, the ethical considerations are often overlooked.
2. Mining the moon
The moon is already being considered as a mining site, or a base of operations for asteroid mining.
As with all mining projects on Earth, there are concerns about environmental sustainability and whether it is appropriate for mining corporations to profit from the commercialisation of natural resources in space.
3. Medical research on the moon
There is talk of the potential to 3D print organs in zero gravity on board the International Space Station.
3D printing organs on the moon, where gravity is one-sixth that on Earth, could be the next step in addressing the shortage of organs available for transplant. Then there’s the possibility of other medical research on the moon.
There are strict regulations for medical research in most countries on Earth, and experiments on the ISS are done under the watch of the station’s partners. But there is no global system in place to review whether proposed medical studies on the moon are ethically acceptable.