Humanity’s never-ending thirst for knowing what lies beyond in space is one of the reasons behind the rapid advancement of the space industry in recent times. With more and more countries raging on lunar-exploration missions, NASA felt a need to lay the ground-rules to ensure international cooperation in this regard.
NASA’s Artemis Accords came out just in time for its Artemis program. NASA is all set to land the first woman on the moon by 2024.
Going through the accords, it seems as if NASA has focused less on the specifics and more on general norms of behavior. For instance, the safety zones mentioned in the accords call out to the rival countries to protect each other’s future bases while working in close proximity. The accord has emphasized the need for protecting infrastructure for the survivability of the astronauts, but what else is there on the moon that arises the need for protection?
There are questions that science cannot answer, at least not until all the untapped secrets of the lunar world are unraveled. The moon’s surface is covered with craters that have never seemed to have seen sunlight, and researchers have it that the water ice spread over the dark cold surface of the moon may serve as rocket fuel or be disintegrated to oxygen for many uses. If there are sufficient resources on the moon, as the scientists predict, they could even pave the way for habilitation of full-fledged lunar colonies and space fuel stations. The consistently blowing solar winds have also enriched the moon’s surface with helium-3, which could be harvested to fuel the fusion reactors.
The accords aim to bring all the leading nations on to the same page, however, this seems particularly difficult, and politics are bound to get involved soon. Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, took it to Twitter the other day and stated, “The principle of invasion is the same, whether it be the moon or Iraq: A ‘coalition of the willing’ is created, and then, bypassing the U.N. and even NATO if anyone is doubtful, it’s onward to the goal”.
The final accords are not out yet, and what part of them gets accepted by which nation for when they are released, is still not confirmed.
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Cislunar space has the potential to become a major conflict area, considering the greed of all the leading economies to access the benefits out of resource enriched moon. The United States has drafted a few plans to avoid conflicts regarding lunar-explorations. Department of Defense’s Space Development Agency plans on launching surveillance satellites to monitor the moon’s vicinity and keep a strict check on any spacecraft that enters or leaves the vicinity. Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, on the other hand believes in sending a space force out to potential conflict zones.
Michelle Hanlon, the co-founder of For All Moonkind, believes that irrespective of the response Artemis Accords may receive, they are indeed a fruitful development and will later lead to peaceful and efficient management of activities on the lunar surface, as humans prepare to go exploring the Moon again.