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Why military forces see the moon as a new strategic priority


The US Space Force is already taking steps to protect future bases on the moon. Could this lead to other powers like China escalating their own military activities up there too?



Space



13 September 2022

Could there ever be a military stand-off on the moon?

Nasa/Ryan Wills

CROUCHED in an area of permanent shadow, the soldier looks out over a landscape of craters and dust in a thousand shades of grey. A few kilometres away, the enemy’s transportation buggy is parked in what they must have thought was a discrete location. But as they should have learned in training, tracking enemies is easier on the moon because tyre marks aren’t eroded by the elements. Now all it will take is a squeeze of the trigger.

For now, scenes like this are, of course, distant science fiction. But it is fair to say military organisations are keeping an increasingly watchful eye on the moon. The US, Russia and China – competing powers on Earth – have ambitions to send missions back to the moon in the next decade or so. They will all be heading for roughly the same place: the moon’s south polar region, with its precious resources, such as water ice. Even before that, these nations have been sending up a steady stream of satellites.

What would the military’s role be on the moon?

With this renewed push for the moon, and the lucrative returns that might result, military interest is inevitably following. “The United States is certainly aware the moon could have tremendous long-term economic potential,” says Peter Garretson, a defence expert at the American Foreign Policy Council, a US think tank. “The military doesn’t want an outpost to be threatened due to the lack of a sheriff.” Yet even in these tentative early …



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