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Growing interest in lunar resources could cause tensions, scientists say



Growing interest in lunar resources could cause tensions, scientists say

Taken by NASA̵

7;s lunar reconnaissance orbiter, this image of the moon is part of a collection of the highest resolutions, almost global topographic maps of the moon ever created. Superimposed on this image are some of the hotspots identified for the Moon’s cosmological telescopes; There are several ideal locations on the moon for these telescopes, as others are in conflict with the radio-quiet zone. Credit: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center / DLR / ASU; Layering: M. Elvis, A. Krosilovski, T. Milligan

An international team of scientists led by the Center for Astrophysics / Harvard and Smithsonian has identified a problem with growing interest in the Moon’s extractive resources: there are not enough of them to orbit. Without international policies or agreements to decide “who gets what from where,” scientists believe that tensions, overcrowding and rapid depletion of resources are one of the possible future lunar mining projects. The report, published today in Philosophical Deeds of the Royal Society A.


“Many people think of space as a place of peace and harmony between nations. The problem is that there is no law regulating who can use the resources, and there are a significant number of space agencies and others in the private sector that aim to land on the moon in the next five years, “said Martin Elvis, an astronomer at the Center for Astrophysics Harvard & Smithsonian and the lead author of the article. “We looked at all the maps of the moon that we were able to find and found that not many places had resources that interested them, and those that did have were very small. This creates a lot of room for conflict for certain resources.”

Resources such as water and iron are important as they will allow future research to be conducted and launched by the moon. “You don’t want to bring resources to support the mission from Earth, you would rather get them from the moon. Iron is important if you want to build anything on the moon; it would be absurdly expensive to transport iron to the moon, “Elvis said.” You need water to survive; you need it to grow food – don’t bring your salad with you from Earth – and to split into breathing oxygen and hydrogen for fuel. “

Growing interest in lunar resources could cause tensions, scientists say

Lunar cold traps located at the Moon’s South Pole are crucial for all moon-based operations because they contain frozen water molecules. Water is needed for all moon-based operations, as it is needed to grow food and to break down breathing oxygen and hydrogen for fuel. The four areas with a white circle in this image contain the coldest terrain with average annual temperatures near the surface of 25-50 K. They are about 50 km in diameter. Credit: Credit: David Page, reproduced with permission.

Interest in the moon as a place to extract resources is not new. An extensive range of research dating back to the Apollo program examines the availability of resources such as helium, water and iron, with more recent research focusing on continuous access to solar energy, cold traps and frozen water and even volatile substances that may exist in shady areas on the surface of the moon. Tony Milligan, a senior researcher at the Cosmological Visionaries project at King’s College London and a co-author of the paper, said: that have been targeted. “

Although some treaties exist, such as the 1967 Outer Space Treaty prohibiting national appropriation and the 2020 Artemis Accords reaffirming the obligation to coordinate and notify, they are not intended to provide stable protection. Much of the discussion around the moon, including current and potential policy for managing satellite missions, focuses on scientific versus commercial activity and who should be allowed to use the resources locked in and on the moon. According to Milligan, this is a 20th century debate and does not address the real problem. “The biggest problem is that they’re all targeting the same sites and resources: states, private companies, everyone. But they’re limited sites and resources. We don’t have a second moon to go to. That’s all we need to do. Alana Krolikowski, Assistant Professor of Science and Technology at the University of Missouri S&T and co-author of the article, added that a framework for success already exists and, combined with the old-fashioned business sense, can set a policy for the right way. “Although a comprehensive international legal regime for space resource management remains a distant prospect, important conceptual frameworks already exist and we can begin to implement or at least discuss concrete local measures to address the expected problems of specific objects today,” Krolikowski said. “The likely first step will be to convene a community of potential users, made up of those who will be active on a site over the next decade or so. Their first step should be to identify the worst results, the most dangerous forms of overcrowding and interference, which they seek to avoid at any site. Disgust at loss tends to motivate actors. “

There is still a risk that resource locations will be more scarce than currently thought, and scientists want to go back and get a clearer idea of ​​resource availability before someone starts digging, drilling or collecting. “We need to go back and map resource hotspots with better resolution. At the moment, we only have a few miles at best. If the resources are contained in a smaller area, the problem will only get worse,” Elvis said. “If we can map the smallest spaces, it will inform policy-making, allow information to be exchanged and help everyone play well together to avoid conflict.”

While more research on these lunar hotspots is needed to inform policy, the framework for possible solutions for a potential crowd is already in place. “Examples of Earth analogues point to mechanisms for managing these challenges. Resources with a common Earth pool, resources over which no participant can claim jurisdiction or property, offer insights to be drawn. Some of them are globally, such as the high seas, while others are local, such as fish stocks or lakes, to which several small communities share access, “Krolikowski said, adding that one of the first challenges for politicians will be to characterize the resources allocated to each site. . “Are these resources, say, real estate areas on high-quality peaks of eternal light, where the sun shines almost constantly, or are they units of energy that must be generated by solar panels installed there?” At what level can they realistically how to distribute the benefits of these activities? The development of agreement on these issues is probably a condition for the successful coordination of activities in these uniquely attractive lunar objects. ”


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More info:
Martin Elvis et al., Concentrated Lunar Resources: Immediate Implications for Governance and Justice, Philosophical Deeds of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences (2020). DOI: 10.1098 / rsta.2019.0563

Provided by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Quote: Growing interest in lunar resources could cause tensions, scientists found (2020, November 23), extracted on November 25, 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2020-11-moon-resources-tension- scientists.html

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