Humans should not be allowed to turn the moon and planets into a junkyard, writes Phil Murray, while Ian McNicholas says space exploration is vital for the survival of our speciesYour recent series of articles commemorating the Apollo 11 moon landing have been both informative and stimulating. Your sidebar story (Lunar litter: Junk humans left behind, 20 July) does, however, sound a siren warning as to the likely impact of human activity, if and when astronauts resume exploration of the moon and beyond. If 12 astronauts, and their associated support systems, making fleeting visits to the moon 50 years ago, results in nearly 200 tonnes of junk left on the lunar surface, what is the prospect for the environmental stability of other “target destination planets” in our solar system, once national space agencies and commercial exploration companies activate their current development programmes?

We have already made a dire mess of our planet, even though regular human space travel/exploration on a significant scale may yet be decades away, it is not too early for international commitment to binding regulations, perhaps promoted under the auspices of the UN, based on the well-established principles of the polluter pays, and when visiting unexplored territory, take only photographs, leave only footprints.

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