NASA has called on China to be ‘open and transparent’ with its lunar missions following a revelation of overlap between the two nations in potential landing sites near the moon’s south pole.
‘Just as the lunar South Pole is of scientific interest to NASA, it is also of scientific interest to other nations, so overlap in potential landing regions is to be expected,’ NASA told DailyMail.com.
The American space agency earlier this month identified 13 potential landing sites for the Artemis 3 crewed mission that’s currently scheduled for late 2025 and will be the first time Americans set foot on the lunar surface in a half century.
In a Chinese journal article on possible landing sites authored by Chang’e-4 lunar mission commander Zhang He and others, 10 spots are mentioned. Artemis 3 and Chang’e-7 both identify sites near Shackleton, Haworth and Nobile craters as potential landing zones.
‘We’ll continue to share our plans with the world as we are able, and hope that other nations will share their plans with us. We encourage transparency and peaceful exploration of space, per the tenets of the Artemis Accords and the Outer Space Treaty,’ the American space agency said.
NASA has called on China to be ‘open and transparent’ with its manned lunar missions following a revelation of overlap in potential landing sites near the moon’s south pole between the two countries
‘In exploring the Moon, we will follow what we have spelled out in the Artemis Accords—that we will be transparent about all activities, operate in a safe and responsible manner, and avoid harmful interference,’ NASA added.
‘We want to be as open with the international community as we can, and as a recent example, we announced 13 candidate landing regions for Artemis III.’
The space agency already discusses its plans at several forums, including the International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG), of which China is a member.
Chang’e-7, which is named after the Chinese moon goddess Chang’e, will be uncrewed and consist of an orbiter, lander, a mini hopping probe and a rover, is set for 2024.
The American space agency earlier this month identified 13 potential landing sites for the Artemis 3 crewed mission that’s currently scheduled for late 2025 and will be the first time Americans set foot on the lunar surface in a half century
The overlapping sites are partly the result that region of the moon’s higher elevation, good lighting and proximity to shadowed craters that may trap water-ice, according to SpaceNews, which first reported the news
The overlapping sites are partly the result that region of the moon’s higher elevation, good lighting and proximity to shadowed craters that may trap water-ice, according to SpaceNews, which first reported the overlap.
It remains to be seen how the rival nations would deal with potential conflicts due to the 2011 Wolf Amendment – which prohibits NASA from using government funds to engage in direct, bilateral cooperation with the Chinese government and China-affiliated organizations without explicit authorization from Congress and the FBI.
However, in 2015 the Obama administration began something called the U.S.-China Civil Space Dialogue, which allowed for discussion of space matters; that was continued into the Trump administration.
A State Department spokesperson told the space outlet on background: ‘The last U.S.-China Civil Space Dialogue was in 2017. There are no plans presently for another civil space dialogue. Should a civil space dialogue be scheduled, the United States will announce at the appropriate time.
‘We have and will continue to keep the lines of communication open with Beijing, including on issues of spaceflight safety.’
Sarah Noble, Artemis lunar science lead for NASA’s Planetary Science Division, said in a previous statement: ‘Several of the proposed sites within the regions are located among some of the oldest parts of the moon, and together with the permanently shadowed regions, provide the opportunity to learn about the history of the Moon through previously unstudied lunar materials.’
‘In exploring the Moon, we will follow what we have spelled out in the Artemis Accords—that we will be transparent about all activities, operate in a safe and responsible manner, and avoid harmful interference,’ NASA said
NASA officials have said they will narrow down their list about 18 months before Artemis 3 so they can prepare for potential landings at each site.
There has been a recent war of words between the two countries over space activities.
Last month, NASA administrator Bill Nelson told a German newspaper that China is planning to take over the moon.
‘We must be very concerned that China is landing on the moon and saying: ‘It’s ours now and you stay out’,’ he said.
China expressed its displeasure quickly.
Zhao Lijian, a spokesman at the Chinese foreign ministry, said in a statement: ‘This is not the first time that the head of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration has ignored the facts and spoken irresponsibly about China.
‘The US side has constantly constructed a smear campaign against China’s normal and reasonable outer space endeavors, and China firmly opposes such irresponsible remarks.’
Christopher Newman, professor of space law and policy at Northumbria University in the United Kingdom, told SpaceNews that ‘this is a genuine opportunity for collaboration and cooperation between the two giant powers, and would be an opportunity to show all the rhetoric about space exploration being more than geopolitical in nature.’
‘However, in reality it is not hard to see why they both want the same spots. It is prime lunar real estate for in-situ resource utilization. This could be the first potential point of conflict over resources beyond Earth,’ he added.
A recent article in Beijing’s Global Times said: ‘Space observers also pointed out that as NASA is trying hard to relive its Apollo glories, China is working on innovative plans to carry out its own crewed moon landing missions.’