By Dr. Matthew Daniels, OSTP Assistant Director for Space Security & Special Projects

President Biden often says that America can be defined in a single word: Possibilities. This sentiment is especially true when it comes to our future in space.

This year in particular, the moon is becoming a popular destination. Two NASA-funded robotic spacecraft are scheduled to launch to the moon in the coming months. India just landed its Chandrayaan-3 probe on the lunar surface—the first spacecraft ever to land near the Moon’s south pole. Japan will soon launch a new precision lunar-landing probe. And other countries, such as Australia, Canada, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), are planning their own cislunar and lunar missions.

As part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s work to ensure continued leadership in space, the United States embraced these trends in the first-ever National Cislunar Science and Technology Strategy released last November. This strategy addresses how the United States will support responsible, peaceful, and sustainable exploration and use of cislunar space, including the moon. We are already seeing this future take shape: 

  • New communications and navigation infrastructure in cislunar space will enable enduring human and robotic activities at the moon, enable a cooperative and sustainable ecosystem in cislunar space, and lower barriers to entry and foster new commercial space activities—for example, as part of NASA’s Moon-to-Mars objectives.
  • The U.S. government is coordinating new initiatives on lunar gravity and geology maps, lunar geodetic systems, and timing standards that can work across the Earth-moon system, so that we can open new discussions with nations worldwide to advance safe and sustainable operations throughout cislunar space. Just as opening GPS to global use unlocked hundreds of applications—and much earlier, time-standardization allowed more trains to run between North American cities safely—these foundations can enable a sustainable cislunar ecosystem.
  • U.S. government initiatives will support development of “space situational awareness” (SSA) capabilities for cislunar space, including from commercial SSA sources. This information will help satellite operators navigate safely and promote responsible spacecraft operations.
  • Private entities, seeing new U.S. government coordination and planning, are creating new businesses and organizing for issues like cislunar communications—part of a wave that could enable a future generation of responsible actors to get to the moon faster and at lower cost.
  • The U.S. government is mobilizing the scientific community to embark on a period of open, globally celebrated lunar exploration—opening the moon to an age of diverse explorers and scientists, while fostering peace and developing responsible practices.
  • A new generation of young people are imagining, writing, debating, and planning how to work on and explore the moon, and envisioning what humanity could be like exploring together across two worlds. 

Our activities at the moon and beyond can enable individuals, governments, and nations to see Earth through a new lens—just as our vistas from Apollo fostered new thinking about planet Earth and its future. Closer to home, our space activities remind us that our best years are ahead, so long as we choose to build our future responsibly, equitably, and sustainably.

There’s so much to do. And so many exciting possibilities ahead. That’s why we’re exploring and working with international allies and commercial partners to open the moon to more of humanity’s endeavors.


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