The last human Moon mission, NASA Apollo 17, took place in December 1972. Nowadays, after 50 years, the Moon is again at the center of interest in human spaceflight. However, no longer the program of a single country but coalition programs of several countries organized in two increasingly opposed camps, including major space agencies, emerging private entities, and new space forces. A variety of systems are under development: circumlunar infrastructures, mobility platforms of various kinds, human landing systems, temporary living quarters and permanent bases. Emergencies could happen, which will require the unconstrained mobilization of all possible aids.
Space treaties codify important obligations of search and rescue (SAR) of astronauts, however rendering assistance to astronauts in distress on Moon missions requires the development of dedicated emergency capabilities, systems interoperability, procedures, preplanning, and training. Emergency assistance requires first of all surface-to-surface communication, including wireless ground infrastructure and orbiting relay satellites to solve line of sight limitations. Furthermore, emergency assistance requires compatible hardware/software and procedures between EVA suits and habitats for astronauts’ ingress/egress, also for an incapacitated astronaut. Allowance needs to be made for sheltering foreign astronauts in distress by overdesigning life support systems, prepositioning of extra consumables and resources, and preplanning of additional accommodation. Finally, effective interoperability goes beyond technical aspects to include Legal Interoperability (for example, agreements on the exchange of medical data) and Semantic Interoperability, to ensure correct communication during emergencies.
The first international lunar search and rescue conference in Hainan (China) co-organized by IAASS and BIT is a major opportunity to discuss SAR related design, operational, legal and organizational matters in case of emergencies on Moon missions. The conference will also discuss the viability of establishing a Lunar SAR organization on the model of the submarine ISMERLO*
The International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety (IAASS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering international cooperation and scientific advancement in the fields of space systems safety and sustainability. IAASS is a member of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), and Permanent Observer at the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS).
The Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT) is a Chinese leading university with a traditional focus on science and technology. BIT was founded in 1940 in Yan’an, Shaanxi Province and was relocated to Beijing in 1949. The BIT strategic plan includes consolidating its strengths in mechanical and vehicle engineering and automation; leveraging its advantages and distinctive programs in IT-related disciplines; and developing new strengths in aerospace engineering.
* NOTE: [The International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office (ISMERLO) is an organization that aims to facilitate an international response for a distressed submarine and to improve the ability to respond to a call for assistance through its coordination role. ISMERLO supports all nations and pursues the involvement of global submarine-operating nations. ISMERLO is a military organization operating in an international environment focused on the humanitarian objective of saving lives at sea].