While news about the Pentagon’s UFO investigations stirs talk of war with extraterrestials on Earth, and news of the Space Force stimulate speculations on war in space with Russia, a new book by former BBC science correspondent David Whitehouse postulates that the first (or next) next space war will be far from Earth – on the surface of the moon – and the warring parties will be the U.S. and China over the establishment of lunar bases. Will these conflicts lead to armed encounters and bloodshed? Will the war song of this epic battle be “It’s a Long Way to Mare Tranquillitatis”?
“Despite the attractions of Shackleton, with the Americans, Russians, European Space Agency, India and other countries also being interested in it, China might want to establish a base elsewhere - and there is really only one other place they can go: to the permanent shadows at the other end of the Moon.”
In his new book, “Space 2069: After Apollo: Back to the Moon, to Mars … and Beyond,” Dr. David Whitehouse – astrophysicist, former BBC Radio science correspondent, European Internet Journalist of the Year – looks at where space travel and exploration will be in 2069 (the centennial of the Apollo 11 landing) and how the U.S. and its growing list of competitors will get there. A review by The Daily Star points out that NASA’s Artemis Program has a goal of sending astronauts (both male and female) to the Moon by 2024 with the landing site being the Shackleton Crater which contains the lunar South Pole. That program partners with the European Space Agency (ESA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the Australian Space Agency (ASA) (the new Allies?), while India and Russia are sending missions independently – India has another lander mission scheduled for 2021. Meanwhile, China landed Chang'e 4 on the South Pole-Aitken Basin in 2019 and deployed the Yutu-2 rover.
“China’s long-term goals in space are clear, a human mission to Mars, but first they want a base on the Moon by the mid-2030s.”
Whitehouse says China has big space ambitions that include Mars, and the lunar South Pole may not have enough free space available for the large base it’s planning as a jumping-off point to the Red Planet, and it will probably move to the North Pole and the far side of the Moon, where it already has experience with the Chang'e 4 mission. However, we should note that the possessive philosophy of the U.S. – with its claim to having put the first 12 humans on the Moon – and the potential need to move people off of Earth quickly due to a natural or human-made disaster coupled with the never-ending and never predictable machinations of presidential administrations and space program budgets and, of course, the military, could easily push the U.S. into starting a conflict.
Which scenario will it be? “Space 2069” looks at future space travel to Mars and beyond, so perhaps David Whitehouse is hopeful a lunar space war either doesn’t happen or is resolved quickly. We’ll just have to wait for the book, which is scheduled for release in October 2020.