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Everyone’s trying to find a way back to the moon

Nasa Space Launch System // Illustration by Kate Walker

Everyone’s trying to find a way back to the moon

The Future. The U.S., Russia, South Korea, China, and several private companies are all launching unmanned missions to the moon sometime this year, hoping to establish both physical and legal claims to the celestial body. While getting astronauts back on the moon is (shockingly) a long way off, the fight for governmental control of the moon may already be underway in diplomatic discussions right here on Earth.

It’s only taken us 53 years, but humanity is determined to get back to the moon in 2022.

  • NASA is developing a rocket dubbed the Space Launch System, which is expected to take astronauts to the moon by 2025 via the Artemis program.
  • The agency is sending the first test of the system — the uncrewed Orion capsule — around the moon and back sometime this year.
  • South Korea is getting in on the moon fever with its Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, which is set to launch in August.
  • And our old space race rival, Russia, is also set to launch its uncrewed Luna 25 mission to the moon’s surface this year.

Even private companies, such as Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines, are launching lunar landers later this year.

Lunar diplomacy
The moon is being looked at as the alternative home base for astronauts as the International Space Station is set to be decommissioned in 2030 and replaced with privately-owned stations in low-Earth orbit. So far, Blue Origin, Nanoracks LLC, and Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation have all received funding from NASA to develop what the agency is calling “destinations.”

In preparing for governmental chaos on the moon, NASA is pushing for nations to sign the Artemis Accords — putting the U.S. in a leadership role, like an intergalactic NATO. But with Russia and China also setting their sights on the sky, competition is heating up as to who will be in charge.