International Policy Digest

Tech /01 Aug 2020

A Space Alliance Between the Quads: The United States, Japan, Australia, and India

With space beckoning as the next engine of economic growth worldwide, an alliance between the United States, Japan, Australia, and India (known as the Quads) in the exploration and exploitation of the mineral resources and economic opportunities in space makes sense. With China becoming increasingly aggressive towards its neighbors, its burgeoning space exploration of the Moon threatens to extend its ability to achieve military dominance to a level never seen before. The race that appears to be developing to exploit the riches of the Moon, and ultimately the asteroid belt that is between Mars and Jupiter, can be the defining moment of world history.

If the world could come to an agreement to work with one another to develop the mineral wealth of our solar system, the future of the human race would be bright with promise. With China exhibiting behavior reminiscent of Genghis Khan, if she is allowed to achieve military mastery of near-Earth space, the human race would be doomed to a period of darkness that none could foresee ending.

China’s Push into Space

The Chinese space program began in earnest in 2003 when Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei became the first Chinese national to orbit the Earth. Since then the Chinese have begun an aggressive drive to become the dominant space power in the solar system.

The primary focus of the Chinese space effort is currently concentrated on the Moon. The official name of the Chinese Moon mission is known as the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program or CLEP. CLEP is also known as the Chang’e Project, after the Chinese Moon goddess, Chang’e. The CLEP is a series of automated missions to the Moon which culminated in the launch of Chang’e 4, which landed on the Moon on January 3, 2019. Chang’e 4 consists of a lander, a rover with a dedicated orbiter called the Queqiao, which was placed in a halo orbit near the Earth-Moon L2 point to facilitate communication with Chang’e 4. The rover is solar-powered, perfectly suited for the far side of the Moon. The rover communicates with the lander, and the lander communicates with the orbiter, the orbiter then communicates with the Beijing Aerospace Flight Control Center located in a suburb northwest of Beijing.

The mission of Chang’e 4 is to begin mapping the soil (called regolith) on the far side of the Moon to identify concentrations of helium-3, which provides a critical fuel element for a functioning fusion reactor (called a tokamak).

The conclusion of the CLEP will be the landing of a crewed spacecraft onto the surface of the Moon. This is currently scheduled to be accomplished in 2029 or 2030. The latest push from China is a Mars launch which took place on the 23rd of July 2020. Called the Tianwen-1, the mission carried a lander, a rover, and an orbiter.

The Advantage of an Alliance Between the Quads

The first advantage of a space exploration and exploitation alliance would be to reduce the staggering costs of the construction of a space dock to facilitate the construction of inter-planetary vehicles (IPVs). Aside from the initial construction and operations of IPVs, each member of the Quad states bring advantages that complement each other and would lead to a successful race to Mars, and the establishment of the support facilities that will be necessary for the successful mining of the asteroid belt.

The United States: The United States has the most experience in space flight. The U.S. also has the advanced technological base necessary for the advanced avionics that will form the backbone for the construction of a space dock, as well as the construction of the IPVs that would be necessary for the transport of the human passengers, crew, and machinery for the construction of the buildings necessary for human habitation. The signing of the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 effectively removed NASA from the launch portion of space exploration. SpaceX and Blue Origin are now the largest space launch businesses in the United States, so this would have to be contracted out to them for U.S. participation.

India: India already has a fledgling space industry and has some experience in launching satellites into low Earth orbit. India attempted a Moon launch which arrived at the Moon, but the lander and rover crashed upon trying to land on the far side of the Moon. India’s biggest advantage in a partnership with the Quads is the cost of goods sold. While India has a highly educated workforce, the sunk costs and labor costs in the space industry are much less expensive in India than in the other member states of the Quads.

Australia: A tremendous amount of steel will be necessary for the construction of the space dock. Australia has the natural resources needed to provide for the manufacture of the steel that will be necessary.

Japan: The use of automation and robotics will be key to the successful construction of the space dock and for the construction of the IPVs that will transport the future colonists of Mars, as well as the engineers, miners, and associated support personnel. Since it will be difficult to support life during the construction of the space dock, robots, and automated machinery will be crucial in the successful outcome of the finalization of the space dock.

If the Quads can unite and work together to develop the new space economy based on the rule of law, and offer economic opportunity for all, a new era of prosperity for the human race would dawn. And the riches of space would warm the cold face of the Earth and bring about an end to want and hunger among humanity.