NASA’s Moon-landing plans, as they were depicted by the agency, consist in developing a blueprint on how to get astronauts to the lunar surface in the next five years, but the announcement has caused a stir worldwide, given Trump’s prior directive to build up a special Space Force within the Department of the Air Force.
In an interview after a speech he delivered at a workshop on potential astrophysics missions on 1 April, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine made an eye-popping announcement that he hopes to develop an initial plan within the next couple of weeks for sending a manned vehicle to the surface of the Moon by 2024, four years ahead of schedule.The announcement came on the heels of Vice President Mike Pence announcing the new goal of landing humans at the south pole of the moon by 2024 in his 26 March speech in Huntsville, noting that NASA already had such a plan. Bridenstine said that the initiative Pence mentioned referred to the earlier goal of humans on the moon by 2028, however, now they are working quickly to push it forward.
Bridenstine told reporters in February that the plan will be implemented using private companies, adding that “we want numerous providers competing on cost and innovation,” going on to say that NASA would also seek the participation of other countries. The initiative is supported by US President Donald Trump, who in December of 2017 signed the Space Policy Directive, which aims to bring a manned mission to the Moon before a manned mission to Mars. Prior to sending humans, NASA is also expected to land an unmanned vehicle on the planet no later than 2024.
Yet it’s not this very Space Policy’s Directive that raised concerns, and rather fears, within the global community, but another document – one ordering the Pentagon to establish the Space Force as the sixth branch of the US military, to go along with the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. Trump subsequently nominated an Air Force general to head the brand-new US Space Command that would oversee the military space domain.
The decision closely followed a report by the Pentagon’s intelligence arm warning of the increasing “weaponisation of space” by China and Russia, which appears to have been taken as a pretext for the build-up of the Space Command.
The near-military rhetoric in light of the US’ ambitions appears to go counter to the image of space, which has traditionally been viewed as a civil domain for long-standing cooperation and research, mutual respect, and trust. Just to provide a couple of bright examples, among the most impressive space exploration feats that entered history are the joint Apollo-Soyuz mission, conducted in the mid-1970s, the successful launch of the ISS in 1998, as well as Exomars, the astrobiology mission of the European Space agency and Russia’s Roscosmos.
‘Countries Legally Allowed to Have Space Station on Moon in Territories Sufficient for Their Use’
Per Steven Freeland, dean of the School of Law and professor of international law at Western Sydney University, Australia, the International Space Station is a perfect example of the global community joining their research efforts:
“Humans are inspired by the idea of other humans going into space and spending considerable periods of time there. We saw that with the ISS. That’s been a wonderful example of cooperation amongst many countries”, he noted in written comments to Sputnik, with another commenter, Dr Gbenga Oduntan, associate professor of international commercial law at the University of Kent, putting it similarly and bringing up the 1967 treaty on international space communication:
“There’s nothing wrong with permanent missions on the Moon, we already have envisaged that in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty which allows countries and people to land on the Moon, to have space stations there, in portions of territory that is sufficient for their use”, he recalled, going on to detail humans’ “nice” plans to visit each other’s space stations, etc.
“That’s the future of mankind, we will be visiting each other’s space stations on planets at some point, that’s fine”, Oduntan noted.
Yet, the peaceful nature of a number of countries’ current lunar and other ambitions tends to be increasingly questioned.
‘Opportunism by the US’ Current Administration’
The US is arguably the brightest example, with the world’s greatest economy, having famously announced plans to engage in a fresh space race. According to Dr Gbenga Oduntan, the US’ space intentions are just a decisive move of the Trump administration to make a storm in a teacup by artificially launching a race:
“I’m afraid I’ll have to agree with some contemporary commenters who seem to think that this is just opportunism by the current administration of the US, who are trying to engineer a race where there is none”, the commenter noted, adding that this is a drive to make the Congress earmark money for a mission “that might even end up being impossible in the time frame, but the money would’ve been released and spent”. He remarked that there are “satanic verses to the current plans of the United States of America, particularly in space”.
Source: News Agencies