February 25, 2020

The Stakes for Space Exploration - NASA Authorization Bill

The stakes couldn't be higher for America's future in space as Congress debates the House of Representative's version of the NASA authorization bill, H.R. 5666.

Americans fully support a bold return to space exploration, and NASA is partnering with commercial partners to return to the moon by 2024--and build a permanent base using "in-situ resources" by 2028. Then, with lessons learned on the Moon, we will safely go to Mars by about 2033.

Regrettably, the House bill would push the return to the Moon to 2028--effectively ceding control of the most valuable region on the Moon to China, and losing, perhaps for another decade, the momentum and public enthusiasm that was sparked by setting 2024 as the exciting landing date.

Additionally, the bill would forbid NASA-commercial partnerships for lunar landers, eliminate plans to build a base on the Moon and prohibit developing "in-situ resource utilization," or mining water and minerals to 'live off the land' in a sustainable way.

Each of these prohibitions alone would delay the ability to conduct safe missions to Mars by a decade or more--to the 2040s or even 2050s, which would be a tragic loss of American leadership in space. Each effectively cedes the critical south pole region to China, where the water ice will support humanity for centuries, and cripples commercial space ventures.

China intends to be on the Moon in the mid-2020s, specifically to build a permanent base on the south pole, mine minerals and water, and deny access to all others, as in the South China Sea, where they violate the Law of the Sea Treaty every day.

Would China really claim the south lunar pole?

Consider this. The head of China's lunar program, Ye Peijian, compared the Moon and Mars to islands they are trying to illegally seize in the South and East China Seas in an ominous 2017 interview:
“The universe is like the ocean, the moon is like the Diaoyu Islands, and Mars is like Huangyan Island.”
The "Diaoyu Islands" are in fact Japan's sovereign Senkaku Islands.

"Huangyan Island" is in fact the Philippines’ sovereign Scarborough Shoal, which China seized and completely militarized in violation of the Law of the Sea Treaty.

China sometimes openly telegraphs its intentions to scare adversaries, and the "universe" quote is designed to scare nations to cede without effort the lunar south pole or more to Chinese control.

Indeed, if China expects us to believe they wouldn't seize the south pole, they are setting a poor example in the South China Sea. 

Yes, there is a space race with China--whether or not we join their race, and the stakes in this century are not just 'bragging rights' but control of the strategically-important south pole. By denying commercial enterprises and other countries from having access to the vital water-ice in south lunar pole craters, development of the moon will only be by China.

To recap, the House NASA Authorization bill would force a delay to returning to the Moon until 2028 or later, which would be after China lands their astronauts on the south pole--ceding control to Beijing.

What should Congress do? Already many Democratic and Republican members are hearing from all sectors of the space economy with the demand that they amend the bill to remove these dangerous prohibitions. A committee markup is planned for mid-March, which may address many of these concerns.

Failing to remove these restrictions, there might be no authorization bill for the year, or perhaps some compromise as late as December.

It is better to pass no authorization than to pass one that will cripple our return to the Moon and pathway to Mars, and cede the Moon to China.

Please share this, and call or email your members of Congress at 202-224-3121, asking that the House bill, H.R. 5666 be corrected--or defeated. www.House.gov www.Senate.gov 

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