We've been wondering if the familiar man in the moon image will become disfigured when Russia, China and the US arrive on the moon and start scooping up the valuable Helium 3 fuel lying on the surface. Former Canadian Defense Minister Paul Hellyer has warned that the US plans to build a defense against alien intruders on the moon. Now NASA has announced plans to construct a base on the moon's far side. NASA says this base will be used for Earth studies, but the Earth cannot be seen from that side.
Jonathan Leake writes in the London Times that NASA has announced plans for one of the largest spacecraft ever built to take people to the far side of the moon. A mother ship will go into orbit around the Earth. This will carry a smaller lunar lander, that will ferry astronauts back and forth to the moon.
According to NASA, four astronauts will land on the far side of the moon to collect rocks and look for water, which is an absolute necessity if we're going to bring people there to mine the moon. International law specialist Virgiliu Pop says that the Outer Space Treaty provides that "anybody is allowed to use lunar ice, provided there is enough for others to use," but he feels that,"There will be legal implications when the time comes if and when water ice is finally extracted." He thinks that comets, which are essentially balls of ice, will be harnessed to use for water. These cannot be claimed by any single country and would be treated legally "like icebergs on Earth," even though they are flying through space rather than floating in the ocean.
On space.com, Leonard David, quotes international diplomat Harold Bashor as saying, "For scientific purposes, a country could use water, minerals and other substances in quantities appropriate for the support of their missions as long as the existing balance of the lunar environment would not be disrupted? This is generally interpreted to mean that a country may not claim ownership of any resources until they have been extracted?There are no rights of ownership for any natural resources." This means that the country that can get to the moon first, and scoop up as much Helium 3 as possible, is the country that will win the race, when it comes to nuclear fusion. It turns out there is already an international treaty in place to control this. Bashor says, "The Moon Treaty of 1979 provides that an international regime should be established when any exploitation of the Moon is 'about to become feasible.' The purpose of this regime would be the orderly and safe development, management, and sharing of the natural resources of the moon."
This will be the first time the US has returned to the moon since the last Apollo mission in 1972. The true motives and activities of the team that lands on the far side of the moon will remain secret, since they will be cut off from radio contact with Earth and will communicate only with the mother ship.
The first astronauts in the new program could land on the moon as early as 2015, although 2018 is more likely. NASA plans to send two crews to the moon each year for five years. But what they will REALLY be doing up there is still a question.
Art credit: gimp-savvy.com
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