The contest for the moon

GS3: Issues related to Space Sector


  • The author talks about the geopolitics surrounding the lunar missions.

Editorial Insights:

What’s the matter?

  • Recently the US has invited India to join the Artemis Accords & a discussion in this regard took place between the two nation’s heads of govt.

Artemis Accords:

  • It is a US-led series of agreements signed by8 nations to abide by the broad set of principles to guide the expanding human activity on the moon ranging (from mining resources to setting up the lunar colonies).
  • The Artemis programme structure involves the construction of a permanent space station orbiting the moon called the Lunar Gateway.
    • A surface presence at the moon’s south pole to sustain future human activity.
  • Though the US which raced to the moon in the 1960s shut downed its Apollo programme in the 1970s.
    • However, the broad advance of China’s space programme & its deepening collaboration with Russia has shaken up the USA.
      • Consequently, the US announced the plans to put astronauts back on the moon by 2024 under Project Artemis.

Need/Significance of Artemis Accords: Changing dynamics of Outer Space:

  • As technological capabilities grow, nations are looking beyond near-earth space to interplanetary probes & deep space research.
    • This has brought the moon into focus among the nations by seeking routine access to the moon & turning their attention to Cis-Lunar space.
  • The China Factor:
    • Over the past few years, China has become ambitious in its activities in the cislunar space.
      • It has begun its lunar mission in 2007 with Chang’e.
        • Since then it has put two spacecraft in lunar orbit & landed two rovers on the moon.
        • Also, Chang’e 4 had the distinction of being the 1st to land on the far side of the moon.
    • Further, China’s ambitions have enlarged & planned to construct a International Lunar Research Station in the moon’s south pole.
      • ILRS will have a space station orbiting the moon & having several robots performing a variety of jobs.
    • It also added international dimensions to its moon plans by inviting other countries to participate in the ILRS project.
      • Russia joined with China on the ILRS & reviving its Luna series of probes to the moon to complement the Chinese efforts.
  • As the geopolitical considerations drive Russia towards China, space cooperation has become an extension of their partnership against the USA.
  • Protection of Outer Space:
    • The main consequence of growing lunar activity is the mounting pressure on the Outer Space treaty of 1967.
      • Which declares that outer space shall be the province of all mankind & its use be carried out for the benefit in the interests of all countries.
      • However, with changing dynamics & situations the universalism of the treaty is under attack.
      • Many provisions of the treaty are vulnerable & subjected to the ill impacts of space competitions.
    • The breakdown of the post-Cold War harmony has added fuel to the fire & set the stage for a prolonged geopolitical contestation for the moon.
  • With Artemis Accords the USA wants to preserve the Outer Space Treaty regime concerning the moon & promote transparency & peaceful international cooperation.
    • However, China & Russia are not willing to work in this regard with China.

Way Forward for India:

  • These accords should nudge India to start a comprehensive review of India’s interests on the moon & develop strategies to pursue thjem through a stronger national lunar mission & deeper partnerships with like-minded countries.
  • It should legislate a strong regulatory framework to promote India’s space activity & protect its interests against the emerging challenges to the current space order & contribute to the development of new global norms that will strengthen the essence of the Outer Space Treaty.




No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *