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Global moon race

  Mar 13, 2020

Global moon race

When did man set foot on moon?

It was 50 years ago in 1969 when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the Moon.

What is Chandrayaan-2 about?

Chandrayaan-2 (Moon Mission) is attempting to soft land on the Southern Polar region of the lunar surface, where no nation has dared to go so far. 

Is the global moon race gaining momentum?

The US, which put the first human on the moon on July 20, 1969, with its Apollo Mission, has been given a 2024 deadline by US President to return astronauts to the celestial body that orbits our planet. 

Among the nations that are keen to explore the moon, which is about 384,500 kms from us, are the US, Russia, China, India, South Korea, Israel as well as billionaires and corporate giants, including Elon Musk’s Space X and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.

The world’s richest man and founder of Amazon has an aerospace firm Blue Origin which has big dreams and would in the near future transport people to the moon on Blue Moon, the reusable rocket launcher.

The first half of 2019 has already seen a wave of interest. The Chinese made a historic landing on the lunar far side in January with its Chang’e series. It is also preparing hard to launch a first-of-its-kind sample return mission by the end of the year as well as to the Southern side.

The Russians are working on a series of landers.

Give some more details about India’s push.

India’s space odyssey consists of the Chandrayaan, Mangalyaan (Mars Mission) and Gaganyaan (Man in space) missions, and wants India to be a space power to reckon soon. India hopes to become the fourth nation after the US, Russia and China to land on the moon. The 600-tonne GSLV MKIII rocket, which is undergoing a countdown as it readies to fire the Orbiter, with the lander (Vikram, after Vikram Sarabhai) and rover (Pragyan or wisdom) stacked on-board.

The journey to the lunar surface is expected to take about 50 days and the scheduled landing is on September 6 or 7. The lander and rover have the Indian tricolour painted on them. The wheels of the rover will have the Asoka Chakra.

India hopes to unlock more in the shadowed Southern Polar region.

If Chandrayaan 2 does discover more water and conditions suitable for future habitation, it would, indeed, be a big leap forward. 

Why is moon race important?

Though the US was the first country to land humans on the moon, the astronauts on that Apollo missions didn't see what India's Chandrayaan-1 uncrewed spacecraft unveiled in 2008: evidence of water in the moon's craters.

That discovery was literally a watershed. Water dramatically enhances the strategic importance of the moon as a platform for space exploration.

We know for sure now there is water on the moon in the form of ice in the permanently shadowed craters on the poles.

We can harvest that ice and use it to make hydrogen and oxygen, which are high-performance rocket propellants.

Is it just water? 

Another element believed to be abundant on the moon's surface - which could further enhance its appeal as a location as a refueling hub - is helium-3, an energy-producing isotope that could power future fusion rockets.

What is   Helium-3?

Helium-3 (He3) is gas that has the potential to be used as a fuel in future nuclear fusion power plants. Helium-3 is a light, non-radioactive isotope of helium with two protons and one neutron. There is very little helium-3 available on the Earth. However, there are thought to be significant supplies on the Moon. Several governments have subsequently signalled their intention to go to the Moon to mine helium-3 as a fuel supply. Such plans may come to fruition within the next two to three decades and trigger a new Space Race. 

When was the Outer Space Treaty signed?

The Outer Space Treaty, formally the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, is a treaty that forms the basis of international space law. The treaty entered into force in 1967.  

How many countries ratified it? 

As of June 2019, 109 countries are parties to the treaty, while another 23 have signed the treaty but have not completed ratification. 

What does it seek to achieve?

Among the Outer Space Treaty's main points are that it prohibits the placing of nuclear weapons in space, it limits the use of the Moon and all other celestial bodies to peaceful purposes only, and establishes that space shall be free for exploration and use by all nations, but that no nation may claim sovereignty of outer space or any celestial body.  

How does it control militarisation of outer space?

The treaty forbids countries from deploying "nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction" in outer space. The term "weapons of mass destruction" is not defined, but it is commonly understood to include nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. The treaty, however, does not prohibit the launching of ballistic missiles, which could be armed with WMD warheads, through space. The treaty repeatedly emphasizes that space is to be used for peaceful purposes, leading some analysts to conclude that the treaty could broadly be interpreted as prohibiting all types of weapons systems, not just WMD, in outer space.