Hints of a New Race to the Moon

It looks like the major governments of the world are turning a little more interest towards sending manned missions to the moon – and even establishing bases there. Last week, at a global conference on space exploration held in Hyderabad, India, a number of announcements were made. China declared the intention of establishing an outpost on the moon by 2020. Japan’s space agency announced plans to send manned missions to the moon by 2020, and establish a base there by 2030. India, not as ambitious as her neighbors to the west, announced a series of unmanned missions to orbit the moon beginning next year, and the US said it hopes to land astronauts on the moon’s surface again by 2020. Russia and the European Union are also considering plans for establishing a presence on the moon.

It will be interesting to see how the competing nations of the world regard the Outer Space Treaty as the race to the moon heats up. The OST was ratified in 1967 and, in addition to prohibiting the use of the moon or other celestial bodies as weapons bases or platforms, it also declares that “outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.” Can the nations of Earth respect this agreement? And will they get the chance to? Or will the private sector in fact establish the first human presence on the moon, in a for-profit venture? Only time, only time. . .

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