The White House’s plan to colonize the moon, briefly explained: Putting humans on the moon is more political than you might think.

Political tensions alone could be a major source of conflict, according to Michelle Hanlon, the co-director of the Air and Space Law Center at the University of Mississippi law school.

For one, there still isn’t a globally shared vision for what the future of the moon should entail. Just over 20 countries have signed the US-led Artemis Accords, a set of principles for, among other things, exploring and using the lunar surface. The former head of Russia’s space agency, unsurprisingly, said that the country would not support the Artemis program in its current form, and Congress has barred NASA from working with China since 2011. And while the White House continues to emphasize international collaboration and the moon itself is pretty large — it’s just under 15 million square miles — multiple countries could end up sparring over the same resources, like one particular landing location or a certain trove of materials.

These tensions could even impact an effort to create a common understanding of what’s going on in cislunar space, which is one of the government’s major goals. The White House has said it wants to expand access to data about space weather and satellite tracking in order to help with the emerging problem of satellite traffic management, and also create a catalog of all the objects on the moon. But it’s not clear how that will happen. —Vox


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