Extra-terrestrial commerce is becoming a popular domain of interest among leading countries like China, the US, and Russia. And it looks like it might become a heated topic of discussion when it comes to international relations. A brewing war is currently underway between the three countries. The US is trying to dominate as much extra-terrestrial space as possible, and China plans to partner with Russia to get ahead in this race.
What the US is doing to dominate extra-terrestrial commerce
The USA Administration has shown an active interest when it comes to space, promising citizens that astronauts will be returning to the moon by the year 2024. The US military will be forming a new branch called the ‘Spare Force’ to manage such affairs.
NASA has also expressed interest in constructing Gateway—a moon-orbiting base similar to the International Space Station. This base will be their first step toward building a base on the moon’s surface that can be used for mining activities.
Spearheaded by NASA, the Artemis Accords also have been proposed, which encourage the mining of celestial bodies for commercial purposes. Japan, Australia, England, Canada, Italy, Luxembourg, the UAE have already signed these accords.
Roscosmos—the Russian space agency has already expressed disinterest in the US’s policies, linking them to colonialism. Sergey Saveliev (Deputy General Director for International Cooperation, Roscosmos) said that there had been many times in history that a country has tried to seize territories because of its interests, and everyone knows what happened next insinuating that this might create a situation where war is imminent.
Since the announcement of the Artemis Accords, Beijing has already initiated conversations with Russia to start building a research base on the moon together. President Xi Jinping has already ensured the plantation of the Chinese flag on the moon (in 2020), shortly after China became the first country in history to land its probe on the moon’s dark side.
What policy advisors think
While policy experts like Anne-Marie Slaughter and Emily Lawrence believe that China and the US should work together, China has always shown disinterest in doing so. It is not a part of the International Space Station program and hasn’t collaborated with NASA.
However, they have also said that, in the absence of an international framework including all-powerful spacefaring nations,
the moon can turn into ”the next Wild West”.
The race is on
The space race is on, and it seems that things are about to get tenser. While the US, China, and Russia are the world’s foremost spacefaring countries, they are not alone when it comes to space mining interests.
Luxembourg, a small European country, created its space agency in 2018 and has its eyes set on the prospect of mining celestial bodies for commercial purposes. They are also supporting a program that aims at extracting resources from the moon by the year 2025.
There are an estimated one million tonnes of helium-3 in the moon, though only 25% of that could be brought to Earth, Gerald Kulcinski, director of the Fusion Technology Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a former member of the NASA Advisory Council, told Bloomberg last year.
India has also shown interest in the extraction of Helium-3 from the moon. Canada has a lot of interest in mining the moon, with most of it coming from the private sector.
A trillion-dollar market is emerging
Be it asteroids, satellites like our moon, or even other planets—the aspect of mining them for the extraction of resources is an idea that will become a trillion-dollar enterprise.
Geologists as well as emerging companies, such as US-based Planetary Resources, a firm pioneering the space mining industry, believe asteroids are packed with iron ore, nickel and precious metals at much higher concentrations than those found on Earth, making up a market valued in the trillions of dollars.
We at SIDI believe that nations need to cooperate to get good results from this venture. However, it seems likely that a war might brew due to the race to occupy territories on these celestial objects.
There is still time for all this, though, so if you want to be on a mining team on the moon in 10 years, the space architecture and design course can be an excellent place to start.
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