Two recent events illustrated how Project Artemis has become an instrument of international diplomacy for the United States and how China is trying to do the same for its own lunar efforts.
Germany has signed the Artemis Accords, bringing the number to 29 nations and counting. Germany, a member state of the European Space Agency, is a modern, industrialized nation. The country has a long tradition of rocket research, dating back to the Second World War. German rocket scientists, led by Wernher Von Braun, who worked on the V-2 missile, were instrumental to NASA’s Apollo race to the moon.
Germany’s joining what is, in effect, the Artemis Alliance further strengthens the modern Artemis program to return astronauts to the lunar surface.
Walther Pelzer, director general of the German Space Agency, noted that not only are German commercial companies already contributing to the Artemis program but, “The Artemis Accords offer a multitude of new opportunities for industry and scientific research in Germany and ultimately also across Europe.”
Space News reports that Venezuela will join China’s effort to create a lunar base in competition with the American-led effort. China has already helped the South American country develop and launch satellites, as Spaceflight Now noted in 2017.
Why has China promised to make Venezuela a partner in its moon program? What resources does the South American country possess that would benefit such an effort?
The Council on Foreign Relations said in Venezuela “Decades of poor governance have driven what was once one of Latin America’s most prosperous countries to economic and political ruin.” Government corruption and American sanctions are also major problems. The country has suffered from hyperinflation, collapsing economic growth and shrinking oil revenues. President Nicolas Maduro’s autocratic rule has crushed human rights in Venezuela. As a result of economic privation and political repression, more than 7 million Venezuelans have left the country, largely settling in other parts of Latin America.
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, Venezuela’s overriding problem, going beyond its dysfunctional government, is that it is a petrostate. Its economy is entirely dependent on the production and export of oil and gas. When the price of fossil fuels is high, investment in petroleum production tends to suck capital and labor away from manufacturing and agriculture, which in the long run are better for a country’s economic growth. When the price is low, a petrostate’s economy collapses. A collapse in the price of fossil fuels contributed to Venezuela’s economic tailspin.
Other petrostates, such as the United Arab Emirates, have started to solve the dominance of oil and gas in their economies by investing in technology. The UAE has a vigorous space program. The country has sent a probe in orbit around Mars. Its Rashid lunar rover was part of a failed lunar landing by the Japanese company iSpace. The UAE is developing a second lunar rover, the Rashid 2, and a probe to the asteroid belt. Recently, a UAE astronaut, Sultan Al Neyadi, completed a tour of the International Space Station.
On the surface, the UAE model is a great one for Venezuela to follow. The Latin American country has entered a period of economic growth, with oil and gas income that could be used to create a technology sector, including aerospace. A number of questions arise, however.
Will China regard Venezuela as a true partner in its lunar efforts or as a subservient state? Chinese economic investment could go a long way to fixing the Latin American country’s problems, but it could come with strings attached.
Can Venezuela’s dysfunctional government manage the rise of its aerospace sector without ruining it as it has the country’s overall economy? Recent history does not provide any good answers.
With the world turning toward renewable and nuclear energy sources because of fears of climate change, fossil fuels may not be a reliable source of income that can be poured into technology investments for much longer.
Venezuela, with a better-managed government, could return to the economic prosperity it enjoyed before the rise of Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez. Ironically, such a development would make Venezuela a prime candidate for the Artemis Accords, much like Mexico, Argentina, Columbia, Nigeria and Rwanda, all developing world countries seeking prosperity through the return to the moon.
Participation in Artemis could be a good incentive for a post-Maduro Venezuela to reestablish ties with the United States.
Source : The Hill