Space: Defense Innovation Agency is interested in … The Moon

The past week has been marked by a controversy between the United States and China over … Moon, the director of the US space agency [NASA]Bill Nelson, after saying that he feared, in the columns of the German daily Bild, a takeover of the Earth’s satellite of Beijing.

“We must be very concerned that China will land on the moon and say: it is ours now and you will be out,” Nelson said, pointing out that China’s space program is the responsibility of the People’s Army. [APL]. Moreover, he added that if “China is good, it is also because it steals ideas and technology from others”.

It is clear that Beijing did not fail to respond. “This is not the first time that the director of NASA is ignoring the facts and speaking irresponsibly about China,” replied Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry. And to condemn a “smear campaign against China’s normal and reasonable space efforts”.

The Treaty of Space, signed in 1967, specifies in its Article 4 that “States Parties to the Treaty shall use the Moon and other celestial bodies for peaceful purposes” and that “development of military bases and installations and fortifications, testing of weapons by All types and performance of military maneuvers. ”But China signed it in 1983.

Only, and as Clémentine Bories, professor of international law at Toulouse Capitole University, pointed out on the sidelines of a symposium on the challenges of space law, held in May 2021, is the difficulty of checking whether the clauses of this treaty are well respected. . “One of the difficulties that also arises in space is that it is difficult to monitor what is happening there: Who left the waste behind? Knowing if it’s legal when China goes to the Moon’s hidden surface, as we can not see it. The whole thing is very complicated. It is the control of respect for the law “, she had thus explained.

At least we are not there yet … although China has made the Moon one of the priorities in its space program for the period 2022-26, with two missions in particular to the moon’s south pole to prepare for future manned flights. And that the United States launched the “Artemis” project to once again send astronauts to enter lunar Earth. European Space Agency [ESA] is not absent in the race, with several projects in the box, such as the very ambitious one of building a “lunar village” from 2030.

In Toulouse, such projects motivated the creation of “TechTheMoon”, described by its initiators as being the “first incubator in the world totally dedicated to the Moon”.

This incubator “provides the opportunity for entrepreneurs to create and develop innovative solutions, technologies, products and services to meet the challenges of a sustainable human presence on the Moon”, explains its website. The challenge is thus to build a “new commercial Earth-Moon ecosystem with high added value. In October last year, five young companies were selected to join TechTheMoon.

However, in order to be selected, a project must also meet “a land-based market need”. It is clear that technologies developed for exploring the Moon may have applications in other areas. Therefore, interest has been shown in TechTheMoon by the Defense Innovation Agency [AID]which will be involved in the selection of the five other young companies that will soon join the Toulouse incubator.

“In September next year, AID will participate in the selection committee for the five newly started companies that will join the incubator in the autumn. The selected companies will for one year benefit from the double support of experts provided by CNES with the support of about thirty mentors from Toulouse’s economic circles, “explained the agency, which as a reminder falls under the Directorate – General for Arms. [DGA].

“This collaboration with CNES via TechTheMoon will also become a reality through AID’s contribution to the incubator’s strategy training program in the second half of 2022, as well as the organization of joint events around the lunar economy and contributions from experts from the Ministry of Defense,” she added.

This interest from AID in technologies related to lunar exploration can e.g. give rise to programs that allow to equip the space command [CdE] ability to detect artificial objects moving between the geostationary orbit and the Moon [soit au delà d’une portée de 385’000 km]. US Air Force Research Laboratory [AFRL – Air Force Research Laboratory] has also recently launched a call for projects in this direction, called the “Cislunar Highway Patrol System” [CHPS].

Illustration: Defense Innovation Agency

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