What is the International Lunar Year?
The , released in November 2022, endorsed the concept of an International Lunar Year to be named sometime later in the decade and modeled on historical examples like the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58 or the International Polar Year of 2007-08.
Science is an international enterprise, and scientists have long demonstrated the ability to work across boundaries for humanity’s common good. International science years—typically declared by the United Nations General Assembly—celebrate and build upon these unique international connections. Such years serve two primary functions. The first is to raise awareness of scientific achievements in a particular field and their broader impact on the public. The second is to promote large-scale scientific collaborations, especially at the international level. The International Polar Year of 2007-08, for example, resulted in the largest, most comprehensive field campaign to date to explore the Earth’s polar regions, drawing together an estimated 50,000 researchers, observers, educators, students, and support personnel from more than 60 countries across 228 projects.
As multiple nations and commercial entities plan a near-term return to the Moon on an unprecedented scale, now is the right time to consider planning an International Lunar Year. A sustained program might combine elements of public outreach and scientific collaboration to fashion a vibrant interdisciplinary and multilateral effort, demonstrating how lunar exploration can be responsible, peaceful, and sustainable, as we begin to establish an enduring presence at the Moon.
The Role of the Scientific Community
The International Lunar Year, from the outset, should be science community-led and work through existing scientific organizations at the national and international levels in a coordinated fashion. The scientific community is invited to lead in developing an overarching thematic vision for the International Lunar Year and a corresponding program under a timeframe of the community’s choosing. Further, the community is encouraged to think expansively about lunar science to identify cross-cutting objectives for the International Lunar Year that bring together different disciplines and diverse stakeholders in innovative ways. Wherever possible, interested U.S. scientists are encouraged to reach out to their colleagues from around the world to build broad consensus on the International Lunar Year and its purpose, working through existing national and international scientific organizations. Finally, endorsements from scientific institutions (and potentially ultimately the UN General Assembly) will be essential to securing interest and commitments from implementing organizations.
U.S. Government Efforts
Consistent with the National Cislunar S&T Strategy, the U.S. Government intends to marshal its extensive science and space diplomacy relationships, both bilaterally and multilaterally, to raise awareness of the International Lunar Year concept and identify possible mechanisms for programmatic coordination, as well as to promote engagement with non-government experts and stakeholders. The State Department can provide presentations and participate in discussions of the International Lunar Year, for example, at major scientific and technical conferences, or within multilateral space coordination groups. Together with NASA and NSF, the State Department can also carry out precursor activities such as virtual town halls or solicitations of community input for a proposed ILY program. For additional information on USG outreach on the ILY, please contact: ILY@state.gov.