By Howard Nemon
On August 11, Russia launched its Luna-25 mission that will attempt a soft-landing on the south pole of the moon. In 2019, China, India and Israel all crashed their exploratory vehicles in that same area due to the rough terrain there. The interest in the Moon’s south pole is due to the possible presence of water which can be used to support life and produce rocket fuel. Access to valuable mineral deposits is also an attractive aspect of this endeavor.
Space exploration over the last 60 years has always fired our imagination with the vast possibilities of the universe and contributed to amazing technological advancements that eventually have improved our daily lives. However, the space race that has ensued is reminiscent of past territorial struggles to expand kingdoms, empires, and nations at the expense of other peoples and nature. It is hard to ignore the interesting juxtaposition of Russia’s first attempt in 50 years to control real estate in space while simultaneously carrying out a deadly invasion of Ukraine.
The growing list of countries engaged in the race to the moon – US, India, China, Israel, and Russia – raises concerns. Here on earth, they are all employing their financial, technological, and military strength to subjugate weaker nations for their national interests. Additionally, we now have billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Besos vying for extraterrestrial business and promoting their corporate interests.
Can we expect this fierce fight for resources to somehow transform into mutual benefit and cooperation on the lunar surface? There has been some evidence of this type of collaboration on the international space station. However, we have seen how these relationships are dependent upon what’s happening here on earth. And what about our track record with sustainably managing our own planet? When profits and power reign, how can we expect that the moon or other celestial bodies will be treated in a way that respects its ecological balance and living beings?
Space exploration is truly a reflection of the conditions that dominate our planet right now. Wars and inter-racial conflicts abound in how we envision, through our sci-fi books and movies, life in the stars. Altering our destructive path, on earth and beyond, will require a change of consciousness of who we are and how we can live together. This must include the understanding of a common ownership and utilization of all material and human resources for the wellbeing of everyone, not just for a few powerful corporations or nations.