Der Spiegel: The Moon Dream of the United States


Does the agency really believe that in four years American astronauts will be able to land on the moon again, Doug Lovero asked, or is the plan “off the table” because of the pandemic? “It’s not just the table, it’s the table,” said the head of NASA’s space flight department.

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NASA intends – according to President Donald Trump – to return to the moon. And he’s working hard on that.
When the Americans flew to Earth’s closest satellite in the late 1960s and early 1970s, they named their program after the Greek god Apollo. The return there must take place under the name of his twin sister Artemis. In 2024, three or four astronauts must go to the moon with a launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The super-heavy space Launch System, worth nearly $ 2 billion, with Orion, a European-American capsule, will launch them into lunar orbit. There, two astronauts will be transferred to a module built by a private company that will take them to the moon, near the South Pole, where they will stay for almost a week.

Flight to the moon in preparation for a future mission to Mars
NASA has always argued that the return of the moon will be more than just a PR action for film cameras. It is a long-term presence on another planet. Ideally, this should be preparation for a future mission to Mars. At the same time, the international partnership must play a role. But what should this collaboration look like in detail? NASA has developed several ideas for this. The Americans want to conclude international agreements with countries that are also interested in exploring the moon.

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The main points of the Artemis program are only now being made known. We are talking about helping with problems, cooperating between different countries, preventing the formation of space debris and developing the Moon’s resources, protecting existing US landing sites and creating so-called security zones around future bases. Other countries must not carry out any activity in these areas.
                            “The proposed principles should not be rejected by any responsible space state,” said Mike Gold, NASA’s vice president of international affairs. “Thanks to Artemis, we hope that the future will be more like Star Trek than Star Wars.”
Fish without claiming the whole ocean
Water ice lying in deep craters is one of the most interesting resources on the moon. Can be used as rocket fuel. Much has been written about lunar dust as a building material or about helium-3 contained on the moon. Even extraction could be a reality on the moon.
In principle, since 1967 there has been an international agreement governing such actions. More than a hundred countries – including the United States – have signed the space treaty. It obliges, among other things, to use the space for peaceful purposes, prohibits the deployment of weapons of mass destruction there, and stipulates that no state can simply conquer a celestial body. As they say in NASA, the Artemis program brings this contract to life.

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“Historically, this agreement was created to prevent powerful nations from doing what they like in space,” said Stefan Hobe, a specialist in international law and head of the Institute for Air, Space and Cyber ​​Law at the University of Cologne, in an interview with a correspondent. of “Der Spiegel”. “The problem is that this space treaty does not clearly define the legal situation at some points.”
It is not clear whether individuals can use the richness of space for profit, for example, when developing the extraction of minerals on the moon or asteroids. The United States believes it can. From their point of view, such resources can be extracted even if they do not formally belong to the developer. You can also fish without pretending to own the whole ocean.
“The law must be on the side of the weaker”
“I find this view wrong,” says Hobe. “But you can still justify it in some way.” The Artemis program should fix the legal status of Americans for their partners in the American lunar program. And this infuriates the lawyer: “Once again we are faced with a situation in which the big ones dictate to the small ones what they should do. But the law must be on the side of the weaker. ”
A special agreement of 1979, the so-called “Agreement on the Activities of the States of the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies”, is to regulate on a multilateral basis the specific conditions for the use of the Moon and other celestial bodies by states and private companies. But only 18 countries have ratified the text, so many see the treaty as a failure. First, because the United States actively opposed the agreement. “It seems unworthy and hypocritical to me when someone first torpedoes all international efforts to reach an agreement,” Hobe said indignantly, “and then he says there are no rules and now he has to do everything himself. “

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In principle, this is exactly what the United States does with Artemis. “We will not wait for an agreement that is in line with our national interests,” Astronautics expert Christopher Johnson of the Secure World Foundation quoted The Verge magazine as saying. “We believe we can fly to the moon and use resources there.” Therefore, we will fly to the moon and use its resources. And we will do this in partnership with other countries. ”
One of those who could become a partner of the United States is the head of the European Space Organization (ECA) Jan Wörner. Europeans are working to create an unmanned lunar spacecraft, in addition, they would like one or more astronauts from Europe to become members of the NASA expedition. Thus, the German astronaut Alexander Gerst – he twice flew to the ISS, and Matthias Maurer – he should fly there in early 2022 – have repeatedly stated that they are ready to participate in the mission. The European Cosmonautics Center in Cologne is creating training equipment called the Moon, which will prepare for flights to Earth.
                        The contract of the German Jan Wörner as head of the ECA at the headquarters in Paris will be valid until this summer. “We will carefully consider the US proposals,” he told SPIEGEL. “In principle, I believe this is the right way. But we must ensure that the lunar program remains international. It is important that we use our satellite together. We must protect the moon and prevent the barbaric development of resources from starting there, as is happening. in some places on Earth. ”
Sharp criticism from Russia
A few years ago, Wörner proposed the concept of an international lunar village, “which should be open to all nations.” But NASA has not signed the document with its proposals. Time will tell how international the Artemis program will become. NASA chief Jim Breidenstein has announced the interest of Japan and Canada.

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But sharp criticism came from Russia. “The principle of invasion is the same, whether it’s the moon or Iraq,” Dmitry Rogozin, a former deputy prime minister and current head of Roscosmos, tweeted. According to him, whoever gathers a coalition of international forces will achieve something like Iraq or Afghanistan.
And NASA has no right to send proposals for cooperation in China. Cooperation in space with the Celestial Empire has been banned for several years by a Senate decision. But Beijing has said it is ready at any moment to “make a greater contribution to building a community for the common future of humanity.”
                        * Translation: BGNES.

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