ANALYSIS – Continued from Part One – Battling China and Russia on the Moon. China has already created a first-mover advantage on the moon with its 2019 landing of the Chang’e-4 spacecraft on the far side of the moon. According to Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., the ranking member of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, that should have been this generation’s Sputnik moment.
“But with all of the chaos in the world, and COVID-19, and all of this environment we’re working in, we missed it,” he said in Defense One.
Those far-side moon operations meant China had developed the technology to operate and communicate with its landed rover out of line of sight—and out of view of almost all of the U.S. ability to see what they’re doing.
The achievement allows China “to accomplish scientific, military, or other endeavors without observation or repercussion,” [Laura] Duffy and [James] Lake wrote.
In June, following an earlier unmanned moon base partnership announcement reported by ADN here, the China National Space Agency and Russia’s Roscosmos took things a step further announcing they would begin surveying locations for this International Lunar Research Station this year and pick a site by 2025.
This follows President Trump’s 2020 promise to have U.S. ‘boots on the moon’ by 2024 via the Artemis Base Camp project, led by NASA and partnering with several allied countries. This ambitious U.S.-led effort is outlined in the Artemis Accords. But neither Russia nor China are expected to join these accords.
As Defense One notes, this year the U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Command were also tasked with protecting U.S. assets well beyond just earth-orbiting satellites, up to 272,000 miles away. This new military sub-domain is called “cislunar space” and it extends just beyond the Moon’s orbit.
Together these various lunar moves create a great potential for clashing alliances on the moon, similar to the ones developing on Earth, with the U.S. and its allies on one side and China and Russia on the other.
Adding more uncertainty to the volatile mix, let’s not forget that in addition to those two major international alliances, private firms such as Blue Origin are also working on their own private moon bases, adds Copp.
While the 1967 U.N. treaty on the use of outer space provided for cooperation, banned nuclear weapons, military maneuvers, and military installations in space, an annex that prohibits military activity on the moon was never ratified by Russia, China, and the United States.
It is therefore very likely both the China-Russia and U.S.-led efforts will build their moon bases without any sort of de-conflicting agreement in place.
So, it’s definitely now time the U.S. and its allies start aggressively preparing for a potential battle on the surface of the moon. Space Marines to the ready. ADN