November 26, 2004

Scientists Call for Global Space Cooperation

UDAIPUR, India (AFP) -- Scientists from leading space nations closed a conference on moon exploration with a call for global cooperation to achieve a permanent human lunar base by 2024.

The Udaipur Declaration said the moon must be used for the benefit of mankind and recommended short-term steps, such as communication infrastructure for navigation and a Lunar Internet, to be taken up with space agencies.

"It laid the roadmap for future explorations with a step-wise approach starting with joint scientific analysis of the data from current and previous lunar missions," said Bernard Foing, executive director of the International Lunar Working Group, a public forum sponsored by the world's space agencies.

Future lunar missions are currently planned by the United States, Europe, China, Japan and India.

"The next step is to put (robotic) landers on the moon from 2010. All the nations can cooperate also on building an international robotic village which can test new technologies, advanced robotics and to prepare for man-tended missions," Foing told AFP.

Most of the countries plan to use the moon as a technology testbed for deep space exploration, especially the journey to Mars.

More than 200 delegates from 16 nations including the top five who are planning lunar missions attended the conference in the northern Indian city of Udaipur.

"The declaration also focused on the utilisation of resources on the moon and how to live on its surface. In the future we are looking to have more exchange of scientists among different nations," Foing said.

"The technology working group has said we should set common standards all over the world for lunar systems such as communications and transportation. There will be lots of discussions in the future on this," he said.

The declaration also touched on the need to implement a global framework for moon exploration with technology benefits shared to achieve lower costs.

"The robotic village could well be operational in 2014 and by then man-tended missions will be ready to start. It called for cooperation and a global framework for lunar base to make it effective and affordable," Foing said.

The declaration also noted a number of questions about the moon which remain unanswered and urged the scientific community to address them.

"We need to understand better the origins of the moon and whether there is water or ice on the moon. Where are the places which can the used for robotic activities and human habitats? These questions are still being asked," he said.

The next conference will be held in Canada during September 2005 followed by a 2006 meeting in China.