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The race to colonize the moon could create conflict on Earth, a new research suggests

 The race to colonize the moon could create conflict on Earth, a new research suggests.


When it comes to the moon, everyone wants similar things. Not in the sense of having a shared goal, but in the sense that all players target the same strategic sites - state agencies and the private sector alike. This is because, if you want to do science or make money, you will need things like water and light.

Many countries and private companies have Moon plans or ambitious plans. This will happen at some remote point in time but not soon - even in this decade. As we have published in our recent paper, Transactions of the Royal Society, it will cause tension on the ground until we find ways to manage the imminent situation.

Until now, much debate about the discovery and mining of the moon has focused on tensions in space between state agencies and the private sector. But as we see it, the challenge of pressing arises from limited strategic resources.

STRATEGIC SITES

Important sites for science are also important for building infrastructure by state agencies or commercial users. Such sites include "eternal light peaks" (where there is almost constant sunlight and therefore access to power), and continuously shaded craters in the polar regions where there is water ice. Each is rare, and a combination of the two - snow on the crater floor and a narrow peak of eternal light on the crater rim - is a prized target for various players. But they occur only in polar regions, but also at equatorial sites targeted by the Apollo program in the 1960s and 1970s.

The recent successful landing of Chang'5 by China targeted a relatively smooth landing site near the lunar, but it is part of a larger, phased program due to move China's space agency to the lunar south pole by 2024.

India tried a more direct polar route in 2019 with the crash of its failed Chandrayaan-2 lander in the same area. The Russian Roskosmos, cooperating with the Russian Space Agency, is targeting the South Polar region for late landings in 2021 and 2023. On the Boguslavsky crater as a test mission.

Subsequently, Roscosmos will aim for the possibility of water in permanently shaded areas for the Aitken Basin in the same area in 2022. Many private companies also have ambitious plans to mine the moon for resources.

Strategic resources that are not in polar regions tend to be concentrated rather than evenly distributed. Thorium and uranium, which can be used for radioactive fuels, are simultaneously found in 34 regions that are less than 80 km wide. Iron produced by asteroid impact can be found over a wide area.

And then for nuclear fusion, the poster boy of lunar resources mined in dozens of science fiction films: Helium-3. Placed by the Sun in the crisp rough rough rock of the lunar surface, it is present in wide areas across the Moon, but the highest concentrations are found in only eight regions, all relatively small (less than 50 km).

These materials would be of interest to those trying to establish infrastructure on the Moon and later targeting Mars as well as commercial exploitation (mining), or science - for example on telescope arrays at the far side of the lunar Construction, away from increasing noise. Human communication.

Then how do we deal with the problem? The Outer Space Treaty (1967) states that "the discovery and use of outer space will be done in the interest of all countries and for the benefit of all mankind." The states do not get to claim parts of the moon as property, but they can still use them. Where this leaves controversy and extraction by private companies is unclear.

Proposed successors to remediation, such as the Moon Agreement (1979), are seen as too restrictive as to require a formal framework of law and an ambitious international regulatory regime. The agreement has failed to garner support among key players, including the US, Russia and China. More recent steps, such as the Artemis Accords - a set of guidelines around the Artemis program for exploring the Moon's crew - are believed to be heavily tied to the American program.

In the worst case, the lack of structure can increase the stress on the earth. But it can also cause unnecessary duplication of infrastructure, everyone can build their own goods. This would increase the cost for individual organizations, after which they would have reason to try to bring back methods that could compromise science and opportunities to leave a legacy for future generations.

WAYS FORWARD

Our best initial response may be slight, taking its cues from undiscovered sites on Earth. Small terrestrial resource pools, such as the boundaries of many villages, or fish stocks are often managed through locally developed approaches by the key people involved.

These suggest that a first step in the direction of lunar-resource administration would be to reach a compromise between users. This should include the nature of the resources at stake, how their benefits should be distributed, and, most important, the worst case scenario they seek to avoid. For example, actors would need to decide whether the eternal light peaks should be managed as patches of high-value real estate or as the amount of energy production to share. It may also be worth deciding on a case-by-case basis.

Another challenge will be to promote compliance with governance arrangements that are ready. To that end, lunar users would be well-advised to share, such as landing and supply facilities, to act as carrots that could be overtaken by abused actors.

It would be difficult to combine such partial solutions after a country or company has made irreversible investments in mission designs. Obviously, the time has come to develop these methods.

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