[Editorial Analysis] The contest for the moon

Mains Paper 2: International Relations
Prelims level: Lunar missions
Mains level: Geopolitics surrounding the lunar missions

Context:

• Recently the US has invited India to join the Artemis Accords and a discussion in this regard took place between the two nation’s heads of govt.

Artemis Accords:

• It is a US-led series of agreements signed by8 nations to abide by the broad set of principles to guide the expanding human activity on the moon ranging (from mining resources to setting up the lunar colonies).

• The Artemis programme structure involves the construction of a permanent space station orbiting the moon called the Lunar Gateway.

• A surface presence at the moon’s south pole to sustain future human activity.

• Though the US which raced to the moon in the 1960s shut downed its Apollo programme in the 1970s.

• However, the broad advance of China’s space programme and its deepening collaboration with Russia has shaken up the USA.

• Consequently, the US announced the plans to put astronauts back on the moon by 2024 under Project Artemis.

Need/Significance of Artemis Accords: Changing dynamics of Outer Space:

• As technological capabilities grow, nations are looking beyond near-earth space to interplanetary probes and deep space research.

• This has brought the moon into focus among the nations by seeking routine access to the moon and turning their attention to Cis-Lunar space.

The China Factor:

• Over the past few years, China has become ambitious in its activities in the cislunar space.

• It has begun its lunar mission in 2007 with Chang’e.

• Since then it has put two spacecraft in lunar orbit and landed two rovers on the moon.

• Also, Chang’e 4 had the distinction of being the 1st to land on the far side of the moon.

• Further, China’s ambitions have enlarged and planned to construct an International Lunar Research Station in the moon’s south pole.

• ILRS will have a space station orbiting the moon and having several robots performing a variety of jobs.

• It also added international dimensions to its moon plans by inviting other countries to participate in the ILRS project.

• Russia joined with China on the ILRS and reviving its Luna series of probes to the moon to complement the Chinese efforts.

• As the geopolitical considerations drive Russia towards China, space cooperation has become an extension of their partnership against the USA.

Protection of Outer Space:

• The main consequence of growing lunar activity is the mounting pressure on the Outer Space treaty of 1967.

• Which declares that outer space shall be the province of all mankind and its use be carried out for the benefit in the interests of all countries.

• However, with changing dynamics and situations the universalism of the treaty is under attack.

• Many provisions of the treaty are vulnerable and subjected to the ill impacts of space competitions.

• The breakdown of the post-Cold War harmony has added fuel to the fire and set the stage for a prolonged geopolitical contestation for the moon.

• With Artemis Accords the USA wants to preserve the Outer Space Treaty regime concerning the moon and promote transparency and peaceful international cooperation.

• However, China and Russia are not willing to work in this regard with China.

Way forward:

• These accords should nudge India to start a comprehensive review of India’s interests on the moon and develop strategies to pursue them through a stronger national lunar mission and deeper partnerships with like-minded countries.

• It should legislate a strong regulatory framework to promote India’s space activity and protect its interests against the emerging challenges to the current space order and contribute to the development of new global norms that will strengthen the essence of the Outer Space Treaty.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the Special Campaign on disposal of pendency in Government of India, consider the following statements:

1. During this special campaign, files of temporary nature may be identified and weeded out as per the extant instructions and redundant scrap material and obsolete items may be discarded to improve cleanliness at workplaces.

2. Union Ministry of Finance will be the nodal Ministry to monitor the implementation to this campaign.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: A

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