by Boris Pavlischev
Experts forecast that the Moon will become sort of the seventh continent of Earth by the middle of the 21st century. People will reclaim the polar regions and build residential areas there. In this context it may happen that many countries' interests will clash on the Moon.
Part of the scientific community draws a parallel between the Arctic shelf and the Moon, believing that competitive struggle is likely to start in both places. Many countries will be eager to get hold of the polar regions of the Moon that are the best places to live in. The largest amount of ice has been discovered around the poles. Ice is a source of oxygen for astronauts, drinking water and hydrogen that is a rocket fuel.
In addition, the Moon is rich in natural resources, including rare metals that can be mined around the residential areas. At present, it would be extremely expensive to extract metals from the moon soil and deliver them to Earth. But later, when their resources on Earth peter out, lunar resources will come in handy. These are the arguments of those who see no alternative to competition.
Most probably, the distribution of the poles and resources will be done in a civilized way, Vladislav Shevchenko, head of the Department of Lunar and Planetary Studies of the Sternberg Astronomical Institute at Moscow State University believes.
"I would not like this to be interpreted as a struggle. When there was a Moon race between the USSR and the US, Americans did not complete their Apollo program. They left the USSR behind and lost interest. I talked to American colleagues and they said the exploration should certainly have been continued, maybe together with the Soviet Union if we had managed to come to an agreement. This means that in the future as well cooperation is better than a race."
According to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, the Moon is the province of all mankind. One could stake a claim there but this would carry no legal weight. Planting flags on the Moon by astronauts or interplanetary stations is purely symbolic, so it is not quite correct to draw parallels between the Moon and the Arctic. The Moon is first of all a gold-mine of scientific information and it should be jointly explored, Deputy Director of the Space Research Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences Vyacheslav Rodin is convinced.
"International cooperation will certainly rule supreme while there are no economic interests, while it is not clear where commercial profits lie. Scientists can't help communicating with each other and sharing ideas. You can rest assured that Earth has a joint team for exploring the Moon."
As for businessmen, experts admit that they could be allowed to explore lunar resources. There is enough space for everyone at the Moon poles. However, chances are that we will have to adopt international legal standards to regulate commercial activity on the Moon.
As for the Outer Space Treaty, there is no need to update it. It was ratified by most members of the international community. At the same time, some countries did not sign the document or acceded without signing or ratifying it, like China or North Korea. It is difficult to forecast if those countries will behave aggressively on the Moonhttp://www.moondaily.com/reports/Will_the_Moon_be_carved_up_999.html