The ‘Artemis 1 mission’ marks the beginning of a new space race to mine the moon

(Cassandra Steer, Australian National University)

SYDNEY, Sept 4 (The Conversation) NASA plans to launch the Artemis 1 lunar mission this Saturday, Sept. 3, after it was canceled at the last minute due to an engine problem on its first attempt earlier in the week.

This mission is an exciting step towards sending humans to the Moon for the first time since 1972. But this time it is not just about leaving our footprints on lunar soil but it marks the beginning of a new space race for lunar resources. This time everyone wants to do mining on the moon.

return to the moon

There is something very new and inspiring about the Artemis program. Artemis 1 is the program’s first mission and will perform an experimental flight to orbit the Moon and return to Earth after a 42-day journey without a crew. The voyage will use a new launch vehicle, the Space Launch System (SLS), which is currently the most powerful rocket in the world.

There will be three effigies of male and female models on the board. NASA will use these mannequins to test the comfort and safety of launch vehicles and spaceflight capsules for humans. Several other experiments have also been conducted on board and a series of small satellites will be launched to provide data when the capsule is near the Moon. The lessons learned from this mission will be applied to Artemis 2, the mission planned for 2024 and expected to send a man and a woman to the Moon.

A new space race?

However, man’s re-stepping on the Moon is not just about discovery and pursuit of knowledge. Just as the space race of the 1960s was inspired by the geopolitics of the Cold War, today’s space programs are based on the geopolitics of today.

The US is leading Artemis, which includes the European Space Agency and several other Allies, including Australia.

China and Russia are cooperating on their respective Moon programs. They are planning to land a man on the Moon in 2026.

India is also working on robotic moon landers and lunar spaceflight programs. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is also planning to launch a lunar lander in November this year. The long-term goal of this race is to acquire lunar resources.

resources on the moon

Water ice has been detected in the southern regions of the Moon and there is hope that some of the gases that could be used for fuel may also be mined.

These resources can be used to build long-term human habitation on and near the Moon, as well as to build permanent space stations orbiting the Moon, such as NASA’s preplanned ‘Gateways’. can go.

The Australian Space Agency is supporting Australian industry to be part of the Artemis program and plans for subsequent US visits to Mars. Australian scientists are also developing a lunar rover to aid lunar mining efforts.

What are the rules?

Over the next five years we can expect enormous political tensions to rise around this new race on the Moon. One question that has not yet been answered is: What laws govern activities on the Moon? The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 prohibits access to space by “sovereignty, possession or any other means”. It is not yet clear whether mining or other methods of extracting the resource are covered under this ban.

technical and political challenges

NASA has chosen the name “Artemis” for this new lunar endeavor. Artemis is the Greek goddess of the Moon and the twin sister of Apollo (the name of NASA’s 1960 Moon spacecraft program). Artemis had announced that she never wanted to marry because she did not want to be the property of any man.

Even though ownership of the Moon cannot be claimed, we will see competition about whether parts of it can be mined. Undoubtedly scientists and engineers will solve the technical challenges in order to return to the Moon. Legal and political challenges may prove more difficult to address.

The Conversation Surbhi Shobhana


The article is in Hindi

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