NASA and CNSA, the Chinese space agency, are both targeting the south pole of the Moon to carry out future manned missions there. However, some of the proposed landing sites are common to both agencies, which risks fueling tensions.
The United States has once again embarked on a race to the Moon with thewhich begins today with . Race against whom? With the program , it was against the USSR. Today, it is against China even if the Chinese government denies being in the race.
Common sites for the agencies for the moon landing
August 19,where could land the Artemis III mission, the first that will bring back the on the moon. At the same time, Zhang He, head of China’s automatic lunar mission which landed on the far side of the Moon, publishes a specifying a dozen potential sites for future missions, in particular the Chang’e 7 automatic mission, which is due to take off in 2024.
The mission includes both an orbiter, a relay satellite, a lander which will deliver a rover but also awhich will fly over craters permanently in the shade, in search of water. Indeed, if the agencies agree on the importance of these sites, it is because they are close to craters whose interior is never illuminated by the and where, therefore, from the can survive.
Water as precious as on Earth
On the one hand, scientific recommendations have determined which sites would be the most interesting, but also an ambition to use resources in situ (Isru). The agencies want to establish their respective lunar bases near potential water reserves that could be consumed by the crew, which would allow them to take less from Earth, but also as a base for ship propellants. Indeed, from a molecule of water, it is possible to extractand of the two fuels commonly used by probes or satellites.
Neither Cnsa nor NASA have communicated on their intentions to find an agreement which allows the sites to be distributed, or whether they will operate on the “first come, first served” method. Chang’e 7 is supposed to land in 2024 and the Cnsa intends to land a first manned mission by 2030 while NASA aims.
These landing zones could well become subjects of tension between the two countries if no agreement is reached. As a reminder, the Wolf Amendment, dating from 2011, prohibits NASA from cooperating with China.