Why all countries are so eager to land on the Moon's south pole: it's not just about science
Mankind has suddenly entered a new phase of the space race, the goal of which, as 60 years ago, is to land on the Moon. After decades of oblivion, the Earth's satellite has suddenly become necessary for many world countries that want to get to the south pole of the Moon before others.
The new era of the space race is described by Inverse. As in the 1960s, the space motives of world powers are not limited to scientific thirst.
Now it seems that all countries with some space weight are eager to land their vehicle on the south pole of the Moon. India recently carried out a successful moon landing, while representatives of the aggressor country Russia again proved the truth of the expression "haste makes waste". The Russian spacecraft did end up on the Moon, but there is a nuance.
The United States, unlike Russia, is working more thoroughly on its lunar program and plans to land a crew on the satellite in 2025. China is preparing to send its landing module there but without a crew.
Hardly the most important factor in this excitement is the discovery of water ice hidden in the shadows of deep craters near the moon's south pole. It is what makes lunar programs so attractive to many countries.
In addition, NASA sees the Moon as a space outpost that will later help Americans make a manned mission to Mars. We are talking about the creation of two Gateway bases: one directly on the Moon and the second in its orbit.
At the same time, China, India and Russia, although they have more distant plans to go to Mars, also want to get to the Moon, but only to prove their space ambitions.
The situation is somewhat complicated by the fact that different countries are trying to land their vehicles in the same lunar zone, so whoever gets there first will have the best conditions.
Why is the south pole of the Moon so important?
The south pole region of the Moon has rugged terrain and is heavily dotted with craters. This sets it apart from the relatively smooth and flat expanses that Apollo astronauts landed on in the 1970s. It is these deep, shaded craters that contain the water ice essential to the existence of lunar bases.
Ice is useful not only because it is water that can be drunk or used for base activities. It can also be thawed and then broken down into hydrogen and oxygen, which can be used for rocket fuel or, in the case of oxygen, to give astronauts something to breathe.
The existence of ice on the Moon simplifies logistics because it is not profitable to deliver water in large quantities from Earth. Water is very heavy, so shipping it would be expensive, both in terms of money (since it would take the place of cargo for which a profit could be made) and in terms of fuel.
Thus, getting water, rocket fuel and air from a neighboring crater is certainly more profitable than launching them from Earth.
Lunar ice, or rather its derivatives, could also be used by Martian missions, which wouldn't have to lift extra cargo to overcome Earth's gravity.
Who is going to the Moon
The main participants in the space chase are the United States, China, India and Russia. These countries will perform not only their mission but will also deliver other countries' vehicles to the Earth's satellite. In particular, the Chinese spacecraft will have instruments from France, Italy, Sweden and Pakistan on board. India plans to conduct the next mission with Japan, while NASA will cooperate with the European Space Agency (ESA), as well as the space agencies of Germany, Israel, Italy and Japan as part of the Artemis program.
Plan for lunar missions through 2035
2024: Artemis II mission astronauts will orbit the Moon. China's Chang'e-6 lander will return rock and regolith samples from the far side of the Moon.
2025: NASA will launch the first two modules of the Gateway space station. Astronauts will land at the Moon's south pole as part of the Artemis III mission.
2026: China's crewless Chang'e-7 mission will land near the Moon's south pole with a landing vehicle and drone.
2027: Russia's Luna-26 mission (if it continues after the Luna-25 accident) will fly around the poles of the Moon.
2026-2028: India's uncrewed Chandrayaan-4 mission will land a lunar rover at the Moon's south pole with cooperation wth Japan.
2028: China's uncrewed Changye-8 mission will land at the Moon's south pole and test technology to 3D print buildings from regolith. NASA's Artemis IV mission will land more astronauts on the Moon and deliver the main habitation module to the Gateway.
2029: The Artemis V mission will deliver more astronauts and a lunar lander to the Moon.
2029-2031: NASA will deliver four more modules to Gateway and land more astronauts on the Moon as part of the Artemis-VI manned mission.
2035: China and Russia plan to establish a shared manned lunar base called the International Lunar Exploration Station.
Earlier OBOZREVATEL spoke about the fact that NASA suggests that there may be life on the Moon.