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The United States signed an international agreement on the development of the moon: why Russia is not in it

NASA has signed an agreement with seven countries Artemis Accords to jointly implement the program for the exploration of the moon. Meduza told why there is no Russia in the agreement and what will happen next.

Photo: Shutterstock

Australia, the United Kingdom, Italy, Canada, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates and Japan will work with the United States to create a lunar transport system and infrastructure on its surface to make a manned flight to the moon a reality by 2024.

Roscosmos refused to participate in this, since the "rules of the game" were written by the Americans. Is there a real chance for a Russian to get to the moon in the coming years and what will be needed for this? The popularizer of cosmonautics and journalist Vitaly Egorov spoke about this.

In his opinion, the international status of the program is needed by NASA in order to protect itself from momentary decisions of politicians, and so - as part of the election program

As the practice of recent decades has shown, large-scale and expensive US space programs, which require more than eight years to develop, are at risk of being canceled due to a change in policy. Under President George W. Bush, the lunar-Martian Constellation program was announced, and under President Barack Obama it was reformatted into the Asteroid Redirect Mission - a program to capture and visit a small asteroid. Under the current President Donald Trump, everything turned upside down again: first in the Deep Space Gateway - a circumlunar station, which was then supplemented with a landing on the moon - Artemis.

Egorov believes that NASA has already realized that the only way to insure itself against another change in political course is to bind itself to international obligations, that is, to achieve a situation where, from a political point of view, abandoning the program would be a more negative move than its continuation and implementation.

In this case, the construction of a lunar station under the Gateway program is more stable, since it is already tied to cooperation with the former participants of the International Space Station program. Even Russia's participation has not been canceled - and the decision remains with it.

Egorov argues that in this regard, the Artemis program is significantly more vulnerable, because it is almost completely the brainchild of the Trump administration, which uses it as part of its election program. The announced date for the landing of the crew on the moon is the end of 2024, when Donald Trump's second (hypothetical) presidential term ends.

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From a technical point of view, this date is unlikely to be met, but for NASA it is now important to move the entire industry and international cooperation towards this goal as much as possible, so that everyone rushes further on the gained momentum. Therefore, multimillion-dollar contracts are concluded with several contractors at once, even those who have not yet proven themselves in astronautics are accepted into the participating countries, and legislative acts on the Moon are being adopted on the brink of an international scandal, the journalist believes.

Other countries have their own motives for going to the moon. Well, or at least participate in the process

Egorov believes that other countries participating in the program have their own motives. Australia several years ago announced the return of its space agency and its entry into the international space market. The lunar program is needed to develop technologies, exchange experience and stimulate companies and specialists to develop in space. First of all, Australia participates in the lunar program with money. With a high degree of probability, this money will remain in the country, but it will be used to produce components for a flight to the moon.

The United Arab Emirates, according to the journalist, are also newcomers to space activities, although they already have several near-earth satellites, their research probe is flying to Mars, and its own cosmonaut corps has been formed. For the UAE, it is also relevant to enter the space market, like Australia, and to diversify the economy to "get off the oil needle." But the political factor also retains an important role, so it is important for the UAE to participate in the lunar crew of their citizen, and they will pay any price for it.

Great Britain found itself in a "space vacuum" after Brexit, which automatically kicked the country out of the European Space Agency. Therefore, now it is faced with the need to develop its astronautics, if not from scratch, then in the conditions of a complete restructuring of the industry, its reorientation towards internal cooperation and its own needs. Now the UK is using every opportunity to prove itself as an independent player in the space arena - it buys bankrupt satellite operators, supports its private owners in the construction of a cosmodrome in Scotland, and grabs the opportunity to go to the moon.

Participation, most likely, will also be financial and technological, and the likelihood of a British flight to the moon will be determined by the amount of contribution to the program.

Italy and Canada regularly participate in joint US space programs, so their decision here is not surprising, according to Yegorov. For example, Italy created the Cupola module for the American segment of the ISS - it is to him that we owe the most beautiful footage and video from space.

Canada has mastered the development of robotic manipulator systems Canadarm. They also worked on the Space Shuttle, then on the ISS.

Analogs of Canadarm and Cupola will almost certainly be on the lunar orbital station Gateway, but what their contribution to the lunar landing program Artemis will be has not yet been specified.

The participation of Luxembourg may seem to many to be the strangest - not the most famous space power. Although Luxembourg will overtake even Russia in the number of geostationary satellites belonging to it. Of course, they were not produced and launched by Luxembourg, but today the annual revenue of its telecommunications space company SES is comparable to the annual budget of Roscosmos, Yegorov says.

Following the success in telecommunications, the Luxembourg government announced an ambitious new goal - the exploration of space resources. This activity is also announced in the American Artemis, so Luxembourg did not refuse to seize the opportunity. Apparently, his participation will be in the development of technologies for the extraction and processing of lunar resources in situ. First of all, the extraction of water for fuel and crew life. That is, in the course of this program, Luxembourg will provide grants for private companies, including international ones, and they will already be engaged in the development of technologies.

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Of all the announced participants in the Artemis program, Japan has the most advanced and ambitious lunar exploration programs. Japan's space agency JAXA previously announced a joint project with Toyota to develop a manned lunar hydrogen fuel cell SUV. Japan has already signed an agreement of intent with NASA to participate in the Gateway station project and landing on the moon. JAXA is ready to participate in the creation of life support systems for the lunar station and launch its cargo ships to supply it. For landing on the moon, Japan may develop electronic systems and prepare its lunomobile.

Russia would like to participate on par with the United States, although there is no money or breakthrough technologies for this

Egorov believes that the position of Russia both in relation to the Gateway orbital program and in the Artemis landing mission can be briefly described as follows: "let's like on the ISS."

This position presupposes the interaction of two parties: Russia and the United States, the rest of the countries are included as components of the NASA program. Russia is fundamentally not ready to stand on a par with Luxembourg and Japan and recognize the primacy of the United States in the lunar program due to political ambitions. An essential factor for Roscosmos in fencing off Gateway and Artemis is the need to pay for its participation in the American program out of pocket. Today the Russian state corporation does not have such an opportunity - the budgets are already under the threat of cuts. The United States, however, cannot accept Russia's terms because it does not see any grounds for such equality.

In the 1990s, when the International Space Station program was approved and developed, conditions were different. Despite the difference in the volume of the economy and the scale of space budgets, Russia had significant technological potential in the creation of long-term orbital stations. And in many ways it even surpassed the level of NASA. The second factor is political: the United States was interested in the preservation and development of Russian cosmonautics in order to curb the drain of personnel and prevent the development of Iranian, North Korean and other space programs much less desirable for the United States, Yegorov said.

That is why NASA went to the creation of the ISS on a 50/50 basis, even in those conditions when a significant part of the Russian contribution was created with American money. For example, the module of the Russian segment of the ISS "Zarya" was manufactured by order of Boeing and de jure belongs to NASA, and the Russian module "Rassvet" was launched by an American shuttle. In recent years, the launch of one American astronaut has paid for both the rocket and the triple Soyuz spacecraft, that is, our cosmonauts actually flew at the expense of an American (or Canadian, European, Japanese) neighbor.

Now, North Korea and Iran already have missiles, and Roskosmos does not have technologies for the exploration of the moon that would be superior to the American ones. If at the Vostochny cosmodrome the construction of the third stage with a launch pad for a super-heavy rocket was now being completed; if the rocket itself had already been tested at ground stands; and if the interplanetary spacecraft "Oryol" had already made regular flights to the ISS, and the long-awaited "Luna-25, -27, -28" were biting into the ground on the Moon, then Roscosmos could demand equal participation.

But even then, you would have to pay for the flights of your own rocket and your ship. As long as there is no ship, no rocket, no landing system, no money for them, all that remains is to set impracticable conditions in order to leave the club and at the same time not lose dignity.

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