Lunar Changes: How Human Exploration Impacts the Moon’s Geography

In the frantic space race of the 1950s, the Moon emerged as one of the primary objectives. Since the historic landing of the Luna 2 spacecraft by the Soviet Union in 1959, the soil lunar entered a cycle of irreversible changes.

After a period of relative oblivion, new space missions once again turned their gaze and ambitions towards our natural satellite.

Although it has remained in the background in recent years, scientists now point to a new lunar phase, in which geography will be shaped, in large part, by human actions.

Crashed spacecraft, obsolete equipment, even works of art and human feces are now part of the lunar landscape, with the prospect of a significant increase in the coming decades.

This emerging epoch, dubbed the ‘Lunar Anthropocene’, began with the arrival of Luna 2, which marked an era in which human intervention redefines the face of the Moon.

The time for attention and care is the present

The concept of the terrestrial Anthropocene began on the planet in 1800, with the advent of industrial society, according to Dutch chemist Paul J. Crutzen. However, its definition came much later, allowing mitigating measures to be implemented.

The Lunar Anthropocene, although relatively recent, could inspire preventive actions to limit the damage caused by human exploration in the satellite.

Exploration of the Moon has already left several traces on the natural satellite – Image: Pixabay/Reproduction

“Cultural processes are beginning to override natural geological processes on the Moon,” says Justin Holcomb, a planetary geoarchaeologist at the University of Kansas.

The significant amount of space debris in Earth’s orbit and on the Moon highlights the destructive potential of human beings.

While lunar soil is normally shaped by meteoroids and natural movement, human interference through rovers and landers has significantly disturbed the lunar regolith (lunar sediments).

With the new space race underway, the lunar landscape could be unrecognizable in 50 years. Ice reserves become critical points in this scenario, essential for eventual lunar colonization.

The challenge is clear: move forward consciously to ensure the exploration and colonization of the Moon, without exhausting its natural resources, and minimizing negative impacts from the beginning.

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Buzz Aldrin’s footprint on the Moon – Image: Wikimedia Commons/Reproduction

“Walking and even living on the Moon seem like natural destinations for human beings,” notes Holcomb, but the journey must be undertaken responsibly to mark a significant chapter in the trajectory of humanity.