The Control of the Lunar South Pole

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Title: The Control of the Lunar South Pole
Authors: Saalbach, Klaus
Abstract: After the Apollo missions to the moon in 1969 and the 1970ies, the space research shifted to other goals. But since the 1990ies, the lunar research was restarted and intensified. Initially, the focus was on the development of science and technology for future moon missions. In addition to space agencies, commercial providers became increasingly active and were e.g., motivated by the Google Lunar X-Prize competition, which originally intended to award projects for a moon landing until 2018 the latest. But with the release of the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act in 2015, the focus began to shift from scientific to economic aspects, i.e., the potential exploitation of lunar resources. However, for a long-term presence, a habitable moon base would be needed with water, enough sunlight, and a stable landing place. The best combination of these factors is present on certain places of the Lunar South Pole which is now the key area of space geopolitics. Lunar settlements without access to lunar water are not possible and who controls the lunar water, has factual control over future lunar long-term activities. Indications for the existence of lunar water ice were found in the late 1990ies. Further research identified six craters on the Lunar South Pole as likely targets for water ice deposits and direct evidence for water ice resulted from lunar impactor studies. The United States with the Artemis program and China with the Chang’e program make steady progress to permanent moon bases (Artemis Base Camp vs. International Lunar Research Station ILRS) in overlapping lunar South Pole areas. Other competitors like Russia, India, Israel, and Japan were affected by landing accidents. Meanwhile, both East (China/Russia) and the West suspect each other that the true objective of their lunar research is the control of the Lunar South Pole and its water ice which would constitute a factual control over moon settlements and consequently of the lunar resources. There are growing tensions between United States and China in space policy. With respect to the moon, both sides have formed growing multi-national space alliances, the US Artemis Accord with over 20 countries including India and the Chinese International Lunar Research Station Cooperation Organization ILRSCO with 5 initial member states countries including Russia. Satellite hacking and laser weapons made substantial progress. Consequently, high altitude espionage balloons were re-activated as safer alternatives as they are low-cost, unmanned, can carry payloads for electronic warfare, surveillance, jamming and observation, are difficult to detect, and can be easily replaced. From a strategic perspective, the United States were leading for decades, but as there were substantial delays in the implementation of the Artemis program already, it is meanwhile possible that China’s moon base will come first. For this reason, every effort must be made by the United States to meet the future Artemis timelines, if they want to keep the leadership.
Citations: Universität Osnabrück, Department 1, Geostrategy and Geopolitics, 2023.
Subject Keywords: Space policy; Security policy; Lunar resources; Geopolitics
Issue Date: 25-Aug-2023
License name: Attribution 3.0 Germany
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Type of publication: Arbeitspapier [WorkingPaper]
Appears in Collections:FB01 - Hochschulschriften

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