NASA’s Moon Mission Marks the Beginning of a New Space Race

NASA plans to launch its Artemis I moon mission this Saturday, September 3, after the first attempt earlier in the week was canceled at the last minute due to engine problems.

NASA plans to launch its Artemis I moon mission this Saturday, September 3, after the first attempt earlier in the week was canceled at the last minute due to engine problems.

This mission is an exciting step towards returning humans to the Moon for the first time since 1972. But this time it’s not just about placing our footprints on lunar dust: it marks the beginning. of a new space race for Moon resources. Around this time, everyone wanted to mine the Moon.

Back to the Moon

Much about the Artemis program is noble and inspiring.

Artemis I is the program’s first mission and it will make a 42-day unmanned test flight to orbit the Moon and back. The earth. The trip will use a new launch vehicle, the Space Launch System (SLS), which is the most powerful rocket currently in operation in the world.

On board will be three mannequins made of bio-renewable materials male and female. NASA will use dummies to test the comfort and safety of launch vehicles and spacecraft for humans.

There are also many other experiments on board, and a series of small satellites will be launched to provide data as the capsule nears the Moon.

Lessons from this mission will be applied to Artemis II, a mission planned for 2024 that will see the first woman and first person of color to land on the Moon.

A new one space race?

However, humanity returned to Moon It’s not all about discovery and the pursuit of knowledge. Just as the space race of the 1960s was fueled by Cold War geopolitics, today’s space programs are underpinned by today’s geopolitics.

Artemis is led by WEwith the participation of the European Space Agency and many other friendly countries including Australia.

China and Russia are collaborating on their own Moon program. They plan to land humans in 2026 and build a Moon base in 2035.

India is also working on robotic lunar landers and a lunar space program. The UAE also plans to launch a lunar lander in November this year.

All of these programs are aimed at more than simply landing astronauts on short visits to the Moon. The long-term goal of the race is to obtain lunar resources.

Resources on the Moon

Water Ice has been found in the southern regions of the Moon, and it is hoped that some gases that can be used as fuel could also be mined.

These resources can be used to support long-term human habitation on and near the Moon in lunar bases, as well as permanent space stations orbiting the Moon, such as the Gateway. according to NASA’s plan.

The Australian Space Agency is supporting Australia industry as part of the Artemis program and future trips to the United States to Mars. Australian scientists are also developing lunar detectors to support efforts to mine the Moon.

Ultimately, what we learn on the Moon will be used to advance to Mars. However, in the near term, the countries and related commercial organizations that get the best mining sites will first dominate an emerging moon. economy and lunar politics.

What are the rules?

Over the next five or so years, we can expect to see tremendous political tensions rise around this new race to the Moon.

One The question remains unanswered: what law will govern activities on the Moon?

The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 prohibits the appropriation of space “by claims, occupation or by any other means”. So far it is not clear whether mining or other forms of resource extraction are prohibited under this regulation.

The United Nation There is a working group aimed at developing a multilateral consensus on the legal aspects of space resource activities.

However, in 2020, the United States surpassed the United Nations process by establishing the Artemis Agreement, which stated that resource extraction would take place and be legal. Twenty-one countries, including Australia, have signed these agreements with the United States, but they are far from widely accepted.

Another related treaty is the 1979 Moon Agreement, signed by 18 countries including Australia. This agreement states that no entity can own any part of the Moon and obliges us to establish a regulatory regime for mining on the Moon “at a time when technology is about to become available.” should be possible”.

Australia is therefore between a lunar rock and a difficult place in terms of our role in developing these new laws. But the development of international law and consensus building is slow: it is likely that the actual practice will be established in the next few years, and decisions about how to govern it will be made after the fact.

Technical and political challenges

There are some perfect poetry in NASA chose the name “Artemis” for this new lunar endeavor. Artemis is the Greek goddess of the moon, and the twin sister of Apollo (the name given to NASA’s 1960s Moon flight program).

Artemis claims she never wanted to get married because she didn’t want to be the property of any man.

Even if the ownership of Moon cannot be claimed, we will see competition over whether parts of it can be mined. Without a doubt, scientists and engineers will solve the technical challenges of returning to the Moon. Addressing legal and political challenges can be more difficult. (Conversation) AMS

By Cassandra Steer, Australian National University

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