ARTEMIS ACCORDS AND CHINA CONTAINMENTOctober 19, 2020
There can be no doubt that that China is a "space player." In a very short time, that nation has successfully landed probes on the Moon, including the very difficult task of landing a probe on the "far" side of the Moon, a task requiring the insertion of a relay communications satellite in lunar orbit. All this followed the successful landing of the "Jade Rabbit" probe on the "close" side a few years ago, which probe proceeded to take some very interesting pictures, and then China didn't talk much about them. China is not, of course, the only nation recently to have sent probes to the Moon, take pictures, and then not talk about them. India has, though it has experienced some difficulty, and a few years ago, Japan sent a probe packed with all sorts of stuff, did some tomography, snapped a few pictures, and released a couple of the "more interesting" ones without comment, and then pretty much shut up and didn't talk about them, and as far as we know, probably has lots more interesting pictures it's not only not talking about, but not sharing either.
And of course, everyone is talking about mining the Moon, setting up permanent bases there to do that, and to use the Moon as a springboard to Mars. NASA's recent contract to private corporations to go to the Moon and bring back some Moon rocks means that the race is on again, and let's not forget the articles in recent years about setting up 4G and 5G networks on the Moon. Israel has even proposed establishing a kind of Lunar Library of Alexandria - an archive - on the Moon.
There's something else to add to this context before we get to today's actual story shared by J.B. and many others, and that "something else" isn't about what's going on "up there" but rather what's going on "down here", and that is the emergence of what others have been calling the "Quad" and what I've been calling the "Quadruple Entente," a bloc of major and minor powers in the western Pacific and Asia that regarding China's growing bellicosity with some alarm, powers that include Japan and India, which recently signed a bilateral mutual logistical assistance pact, Australia and of course the United States. I've been arguing that the real quiet member of this arrangement might be Russia, which certainly has been sending signals of its own to China.
With that in mind, consider the story shared by J.B. and many others (with a big thanks to all who brought it to my attention):
As the article notes, the "Artemis Accords" are specifically designed to "internationalize" the Moon and other asset-rich celestial bodies:
NASA's moon-exploring coalition is starting to come together.
Eight nations have signed the Artemis Accords, a set of principles outlining the responsible exploration of Earth's nearest neighbor, NASA officials announced today (Oct. 13).
The path is now clear for those eight nations — Australia, Canada, Japan, Luxembourg, Italy, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and (unsurprisingly) the U.S. — to participate in NASA's Artemis program of crewed lunar exploration. Artemis aims to land two astronauts near the lunar south pole in 2024 and establish a sustainable human presence on and around the moon by the end of the decade — bold goals that NASA aims to achieve with the help of international and private-sector partners.
The Artemis Accords serve as a preamble to bilateral, government-to-government agreements that participating nations will sign with the U.S. Those future agreements will lay out each country's specific contribution to the Artemis program, while the newly signed accords "establish norms of behavior and rules for space operations," Bridenstine said.
For example, signatories to the Artemis Accords affirm, among other things, that they will conduct all space activities peacefully and in accordance with international law; help protect space heritage, such as the Apollo landing sites; publicly release scientific data in a timely manner; render aid to astronauts who need it; and make their hardware and other systems "interoperable" to maximize cooperative use.
The Accords are designed to defuse off-Earth conflicts before they flare up, Bridenstine said.
Note the nations that have thus far signed the accords: Australia, Canada, Japan, Luxembourg, Italy, the United Kingdom, the U.A.E., and the U.S.A. Looking at that list, I believe it's highly significant that three of the four "Quad" members are present: the U.S.A., Japan, and Australia. Two other Commonwealth countries - the U.K. and Canada - are involved, which, though India is usually reckoned as a "Quad" member and is missing from this list, indicates perhaps that inevitably it will join the Artemis accords. Similarly, those two of those three nations are members of my hypothesized "Quadruple Entente", where the fourth member is not Australia, but Russia.
Russia, however, has been stalling on signing the accords (see
For a different view of Russia's position, see
But with or without Russia, I strongly suspect that the Artemis Accords were designed from the outset to be part of the geopolitical realignment taking place on Earth to contain China, and that means containing China in space. They symbolize the determination to allow no one power to monopolize space. But looking more closely at the current list of signatories, one also notes the heavy presence of "the Anglosphere" (the USA, UK, Canada, Australia) and their close allies (Japan). Indeed, looking at that list, one also sees four out of the five nations composing the"Five Eyes" intelligence sharing network (the missing member being New Zealand), and Japan has recently indicated a willingness to join that network. Notably missing, thus far, are the two major European space powers - France and Germany - though Italy's presence may be an indication of things to come.
It is a risky policy, because China has not only demonstrated the determination to be "first in space" but also demonstrated the capability to do so. The Artemis Signatories have demonstrated a lot of talk and "big plans" but so far haven't done anything significant in space, like landing probes on the far side of the Moon. In short, they're all playing catch-up, and will have to demonstrate the actual ability to get things done. Should they fail, then the unraveling of "the Quad" will begin "up there" and may reach "down here." After all, space is a winner take all proposition.
See you on the flip side...