The news in recent days regarding space tends to go unnoticed, with all the covid planscamdemic hysteria going on, but there's something afoot for sure. NASA's recent award of a 4G contract to Nokia to build a network on the Moon , and it's aggressive push to sign up countries on its Artemis Accords being two cases in point. And all of this of course follows other stories of the last few months, such as the USA and France announcing each country would establish a space force, the announcement by NATO to build a space warfare center in Germany as well as that country's earlier announcement to build its own 4G lunar network, and so on.
With that as a bit of backdrop,K.K. and T.S. shared the following story about NASA's recent announcement that there may be more water on the Moon than previously thought, including on the "Far Side":
According to the article version of the story (the first link above), water has been found in forms not simply limited to water ice at the bottom of craters which see little to no sunlight:
Spacecraft like NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter detected hydrogen — one of water's molecular components — in permanently shady areas at the north and south pole.
The case strengthened when data from India's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft revealed tiny patches of exposed ice in some of those same shadowy craters.
But Dr Honniball's study reports the signature of water that's not ice.
SOFIA is a souped-up 747 aeroplane with a telescope inside it that can collect infrared light from above the clouds; in this case, it used a camera that focuses on wavelengths in the 5- to 8-micron range.
Water molecules reflect light at a wavelength of 6 microns.
"This is unique to molecular water because it requires two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen," Dr Honniball explained.
In fact, water appears to be present in Clavius Crater — a huge basin in the rugged high-latitude highlands — in abundances of around 100 to 400 parts per million.
"It means there's lots of bound water in places on the Moon where you wouldn't necessarily expect it."
"This presents an opportunity to rethink technologies needed to extract and utilise lunar water for scientific and exploration purposes."
Why it this big news? For one thing, it means that the Artemis Accords are perhaps about sending missions to the Moon for the express purpose of finding water, and possibly, extracting it from such sources. In fact, the article admits as much:
A number of nations are eyeing the south pole of the Moon.
The US recently announced plans to put humans on the Moon in 2024 and have a permanent presence at the south pole by 2028.
This "Artemis" mission, to which Australia is a signatory, will also hunt for water.
If present, it could be used to supply drinking water, as well as produce rocket fuel to sustain space exploration.
Andrew Dempster, head of space engineering at the University of New South Wales, has long argued that Australia should play a role in space mining.
He said the findings of the two papers confirmed assumptions about the Moon and reduced uncertainty for the mining industry.
There you have it: the purpose is to (1) find water, (2) figure out how to extract it in order to (3) sustain a permanent human presence on the Moon for exploration and (4) mining, which activity requires water.
All this might seem like more pie-in-the-sky. After all, we've been hearing talk like this for decades, and nothing, really, has happened with manned space flight. However, E.G. shared another article that implies that this time the talk may not be just talk, but that the plans and schedules of the Artemis Accords signatories are very serious. Consider this story:
Note that the explicit purpose of this drilling contract is to drill for water ice beneath the lunar surface:
NASA selected Houston-based company Intuitive Machine to land an ice-mining drill on the moon's south pole by December 2022.
The space agency agreed to pay Intuitive Machines $47 million to land Polar Resources Ice Mining Experiment (PRIME-1) on the moon in the first-ever mining mission to drill below the lunar surface, in search of water ice. A mass spectrometer will be used to determine how much of the ice changes from solid to vapor on the lunar surface vacuum. The data will assist NASA's rover, the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER), searching for water ice at the moon's pole to determine an area that will support a human presence in 2024.
But that's not all NASA is interested in drilling for:
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine recently said the space agency is set to purchase rare-earth materials mined from the moon by private companies. Not too long ago, NASA discovered that underneath the lunar surface, there is an abundance of natural resources.(Emphasis added)
To put it country simple, folks, the "space race" is on again, but it a way far different than that between the USSR and USA in the Cold War, because this time, private industry is being fully integrated into the USA's and the rest of the West's plans, and those plans include mining the Moon. And NASA is handing out contracts to do just that. The bottom line here is that while many nations are already signatories to the Artemis Accords, do not expect them to abandon their own national programs. I rather suspect that one will eventually see those countries adopting the "NASA government-corporation" relationship playbook. Luxembourg, it might be recalled by some readers of this website, has already adopted the model, intending to become a "space player."
The real question to come will be how will all those investments up there be protected, and who will start that race? The corporations, or the governments, involved, and what will be the governance structure that evolves from it?
See you on the flip side...