China can capture the moon, NASA is sure: how realistic is it

The NASA administrator is convinced that Beijing will soon claim the Earth’s natural satellite and prevent other countries from exploring it. “It’s time for us to start worrying … When we plan a lunar landing, China seems to be saying, ‘Now it’s ours, and you stay away.'” However, China immediately condemned the allegations, calling them “false,” according to Bloomberg.

It is remarkable that right now both the United States and China are actively working on lunar missions.

NASA, China and lunar bases

In December 2020, NASA sent in 18 men and women selected to participate in the first Artemis missions. The US Aerospace Agency is now actively preparing for launch tests, which will take place in August 2022.

The flight to the moon for a ship with a crew of four, with the planned landing of two of them on the surface, will take place in 2025. As part of Artemis I’s mission, a woman will fly to the moon for the first time. NASA also announced the launch of a competition to develop nuclear power plants that can operate on the moon. Three US companies will participate in it: Lockheed Martin, Westinghouse and IX.

In 2019, China became the first country to land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon. That same year, China and Russia announced joint plans to reach the lunar South Pole in 2026. The South China Morning Post also reported that Beijing will build a permanently manned International Lunar Research Station by 2027.

But does the creation of a lunar base by China or NASA mean the “capture” of the moon itself? Svetla Ben-Yitzhak and R. Lincoln Hines, associate professors at Air University in Alabama, USA, are not sure. They published their results in The Conversation magazine.

Are there enough resources?

The Chinese authorities are investing heavily in space. In 2021, he was the leader in the number of launches in orbit. In total, there were 55 of them, and the United States had 51. As of 2021, Beijing entered the top three in the deployment of spacecraft. China’s state-owned space company StarNet plans to create a mega constellation of 12,992 satellites, and the country is almost complete with the Tiangong space station.

But despite this, the “capture” of the moon is too expensive, scientists are sure. China’s space budget, estimated at $ 13 billion by 2020 and an increase of 17%, is only about half of NASA’s budget. This is obviously not enough.

What does the law say about this?

Legally, China cannot take over the moon – this is contrary to current international space law and the Outer Space Treaty. It was adopted in 1967 and signed by 134 countries, including Beijing. According to it, “outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation, either by declaring sovereignty over them, or by use or occupation, or in any other way.” This means that no country can take possession of the moon. If China tries to do this, it could provoke an international conflict.

As a result, if China takes control of any part of the moon, it will be a risky, costly and very provocative move. In addition, it is illegal.

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