Japan made history last month when it became the fifth nation to soft land on the moon. What’s more, they landed it close to their target, a feat that could be a gamechanger for space travel.
On this episode:
Read more/Watch more/Play more:
- Japan makes history as spacecraft lands on the moon (Tomoko Otake and Joel Tansey, The Japan Times)
- One small step for a JAXA spacecraft, one giant leap for exploration (Elizabeth Tasker, The Japan Times)
- Japan’s moonshot may mark breakthrough for future lunar missions (Gabriel Dominguez, The Japan Times)
- Geopolitics in space: Why great powers are scrambling for the moon (Gabriel Dominguez, The Japan Times)
- SLIM Moon Landing Live & Press Conference (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, YouTube)
- SORA-Q Flagship Model (Takara Tomy)
- SLIM: The pinpoint moon landing game (JAXA Space Education Center)
- Artemis Accords (U.S. Dept. of State)
Get in touch: Send us feedback at [email protected]. Support the show by rating, reviewing and sharing the episode with a friend if you’ve enjoyed it. For a transcript of the show, visit japantimes.co.jp, and don’t forget to follow us on X!
Transcript note: Deep Dive is made to be listened to, and we recommend this transcript be used as an accompaniment to the episode. This transcript has been generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcription, and may contain errors. Please check its accuracy against the episode.
Shaun McKenna 00:08
Welcome to Deep Dive from The Japan Times, I'm Shaun McKenna.
You are listening to the launch of an HII-A rocket back in September from Tanegashima Space Center on Tanegashima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture, that’s an island very close to Yakushima, a popular destination for travelers. The rocket was carrying an X-ray telescope called the X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission, or “krizz-em,” so that’s spelled out XRISM for short, and a lightweight lunar lander called the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, they’re calling it SLIM, for short. XRISM was put into orbit around Earth 13 minutes after launch, and SLIM went on a four-month journey that eventually took it to the moon, where it soft-landed successfully and gave Japan the distinction of being the fifth country in the world to land a craft on the moon after the United States, the former Soviet Union, China and India. On today’s show we will talk to Japan Times science writer Tomoko Otake about the lunar landing, as well as Gabriel Dominguez, who will place the achievement in a broader geopolitical context. But first, watching it all go down in the early hours of Jan. 20 was news editor Joel Tansey who’s going to tell us what it was like covering the night of the SLIM landing.
Hey Joel, so just how late did you have to stay up, the night of the lunar landing?
Joel Tansey 01:48
You can imagine that I didn't have a whole lot of competition for getting this duty. I think I ended up going to bed around 4:30 a.m. Now I think coverage might have wrapped around 4. But I was quite the kind of jazzed up at the excitement of the evening. So it took me a little bit more time to wind down.
Shaun McKenna 02:06
Yeah, I bet. Well why don't you start by telling us what the press conference was like to announce this historical achievement of Japan being the fifth country to land a craft on the moon. Like, when did it actually start?
Joel Tansey 02:20
Yeah, I mean, yeah, I'll take you back to the very beginning. You know, at about 11 p.m. the broadcast went live. And for sports fans out there, I think you would call this the pregame show, they kinda brought in some various experts and you know, people involved with various parts of the lander and some of the equipment onboard. It was all really well done. It was in Japanese, of course, but they had an English translation, a live interpretation. And I have to say they just it was a it was a great broadcast, because it really, you know, it was 11 p.m. on a Friday, getting pretty, pretty tired by that point already, and yeah, it kind of got me excited for the mission.
Shaun McKenna 02:58
What was it, was it like a YouTube channel or?
Joel Tansey 03:00
Yeah, so they livestreamed it on YouTube, and it was, I believe, produced by JAXA itself, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
Shaun McKenna 03:09
OK, where were they streaming from?
Joel Tansey 03:11
They were at their campus in Sagamihara in Kanagawa Prefecture, not far outside of Tokyo. It was interesting for everyone watching it on YouTube. And of course, there's a live chat going on. And there was more than a couple mentions of Eminem.
Shaun McKenna 03:28
Right, because the lunar lander, the acronym is SLIM.
Joel Tansey 03:32
Right? Slim Shady.
Shaun McKenna 03:35
Very, very smart.
Joel Tansey 03:35
Yeah, people really made that nice connection there. And the host for the evening was a researcher named Shin Toriumi, and, of course, that was, you know, as I mentioned, all in Japanese. The translation was provided by Elizabeth Tasker, who actually wrote something in The Japan Times for us back in December in the kind of the build up towards this mission. And yeah, she was just fantastic, really, really kind of set the tone for, you know, what was an exciting evening for folks watching at home. So Toriumi, he sat on an orange couch, and it was quite distinctive, if you're watching the stream that was just kind of interesting color. And it really just kind of looked like he was hanging out in somebody's basement and surrounded by, you know, lots of models and posters of the moon. And, again, the whole thing really, it felt like the pregame show for the Super Bowl. And I would say that the game actually started at midnight.
Shaun McKenna 04:33
OK, so what kind of things did Toriumi talk about?
Joel Tansey 04:36
So I guess, I never got the chance to attend Space Camp, although I kind of wish I had, you know, in retrospect, but it was almost like being at some sort of event like that, where, you know, he interviewed a lot of other researchers involved in the space program. And one of the probes that SLIM was releasing was made in coordination with TOMY, and that's the, people might know that is a very famous toy company. And so he interviewed someone from the company who was involved in that.
Shaun McKenna 5:07
So when the actual landing took place, what did you see? Did you actually see it land?
Joel Tansey 05:12
Right, so unfortunately, there wasn't a live video being fed back to Earth for us to watch. But what they did present to us was a lot of data. A lot of it, you know, certainly didn't make sense to myself as kind of just a, you know, an armchair person sitting at home.
Shaun McKenna 05:33
Yeah, an armchair cosmonaut.
Joel Tansey 05:35
Armchair cosmonaut, I like that. And there was also a graphic of the lander kind of on its way to the moon, so you could kind of see where it was in proximity to the lunar surface. Yeah, it was 20 minutes of that. And it was a, there wasn't a lot of narration going on during that time. But I think there was a lot of tension. This was called the “20 minutes of terror” by the mission personnel, and that's because this is the time where things can go wrong. A lot of preparation went into the mission. So this is, this is gut check time. So then, you know, around 12:20 a.m., Jackson said, The slim had appeared to land on the moon, which is, you know, a monumental achievement in itself. For Japan, only the fifth country to do that. But they couldn't quite confirm it. It was a bit unusual at that point where it appeared it landed on the moon. But we can't quite confirm that. And around 12:30 a.m., they said, we were going to get back to you when we've confirmed the status of the lander.
Shaun McKenna 06:37
Right, that does sound tense, and like really complicated. I mean, when you start to think about what they're actually trying to do, they're, they're landing something that's like, on the moon.
Joel Tansey 06:48
Yeah, I think we might even just kind of, like, take it for granted a little bit here in 2024. But this is, you know, this is very, this is, this is actually rocket science, Shaun. And what Japan was trying to do was also unique in the fact that it was trying to achieve what's called a pinpoint landing. So that is landing within 100 meters of a target, and that's extremely complicated, as you might imagine, and what typical missions try for is tens of kilometers. So, you know, this, this was really the groundbreaking part of the mission. And they also, of course, were trying to achieve a soft landing so that the lander could be useful once it arrived on the moon.
Shaun McKenna 07:32
Right. That's opposed to a hard landing?
Joel Tansey 07:34
As opposed to a hard landing, yeah, which is sometimes intentional. You know, they might want a hard landing to pick up debris that can then be collected.
Shaun McKenna 07:45
OK, so something will crash into the moon. And like, that kicks up the debris?
Joel Tansey 07:51
Yeah, a hard landing is is kind of what it sounds like. It would be a lot more violent, and it would kick up debris so that other spacecraft can pick up that debris for analysis. But Japan was trying for a soft landing and a pinpoint soft-landing at that. So that was a main goal of this mission was to achieve that.
Shaun McKenna 08:13
Right. So landing the spacecraft so close is a difficult achievement. When did you actually find out that they did it?
Joel Tansey 08:21
Right, so, as I said, you know, from 12:20 a.m., there was that time where they were trying to confirm there was a lot of coffees and a lot of waiting around, it was a bit like being on hold with your mobile phone carrier. Every once a while, they would come back, you know, and say, you know, we're still trying to confirm.
Shaun McKenna 08:38
We appreciate your reporting, please stay on the line.
Joel Tansey 08:40
Right, exactly. And the music was actually, it was kind of quite nice. Actually. It was a bit getting a almost disappointed when it ended. But so then around 2:30 a.m. is when they they kind of come back and they prepare for the actual press conference. And that's when we had confirmation that Japan had landed on the moon and become the fifth country to do so.
Shaun McKenna 09:02
Right. Well, Joel, thanks for staying up late for us and doing that reporting. So the actual YouTube broadcast that Joel was referring to is available online, and we'll put a link to that in the show notes. Thanks again for joining us, Joel.
Joel Tansey 09:16
Thanks for having me on.
Shaun McKenna 09:17
When we come back, Tomoko Otake will explain to us what the point of Japan's mission to the moon was in the first place.
Tomoko thanks for coming back to Deep Dive, I know you're busy.
Tomoko Otake 09:36
No problem, thanks for having me.
Shaun McKenna 09:38
So we just spoke to Joel about staying up all night to watch the lunar landing and from what I understand you were watching it too, yeah? What was your overall impression of the event? I know you cover science and health, but what was it like kind of watching history unfold live even if it was at 2 in the morning?
Tomoko Otake 09:57
It was pretty exciting actually. Um, you don't get to cover something as historic as a moon landing. And like Joel, I started watching the YouTube Live broadcast on Friday night and tension started rising during the 20 minutes of terror. So that was when the spacecraft had to clear a lot of hurdles, as he made its final descent, and in those 20 minutes, anything could have gone wrong. So there was no turning back once the final descent began. As a matter of fact, right before touchdown, one of the two engines got damaged and got lost. And the craft ended up landing in the wrong position. But at that time, we didn't know what was going on.
Shaun McKenna 10:42
Right. The feed cut out and you had to wait for two hours, is that right?
Tomoko Otake 10:46
Yeah. We were kept waiting for two hours and the press conference started around 2:30 a.m. OK. And that was two hours after the touchdown. But JAXA, which is Japan’s space agency, confirmed that it soft-landed on the moon, but they also announced that the solar power panels weren't working properly. And as I watched the press conference, I was pretty surprised how the three JAXA officials appeared. And they looked pretty glum. They weren't looking really happy. And almost like, felt like their minds were elsewhere.
Shaun McKenna 11:26
Yeah. JAXA, has had kind of a few misses recently when it comes to their space program.
Tomoko Otake 11:32
Right. So they must have been really nervous about the success of the mission. And when one of the officials was asked by a reporter how many points he would give to the performance of the lander? He said 60 points, barely passing the test. And that kind of like, raised the question of, was it really a success?
Shaun McKenna 11:51
Right, he gave himself a C.
Tomoko Otake 11:53
That's right. Yeah, it was pretty strict, I thought. But it was no wonder, because the lander was relying on the battery and power was running low. And right during the news conference, they had decided to switch off the battery so they could save the power.
Shaun McKenna 12:09
Right. So things kind of looked a bit dark.
Tomoko Otake 12:13
Right. But, luckily, five days later, they announced that they achieved one of the key goals, which is to land precisely where they wanted to. And as I heard this week, more than a week after the landing, the probe resumed operations, because its solar cells started receiving the sunlight and started generating power. So it was a really interesting experience, feeling excited in stages as more information became available.
Shaun McKenna 12:41
So let's break down the objectives of this mission for Slim, which to remind listeners stands for Smart Lander for Investigating Moon.
Tomoko Otake 12:48
Right. So that SLIM mission has two main objectives. One is that JAXA wanted to achieve a soft or pinpoint landing on the site close to the Shioli crater and they chose the sport which is a sloping ragged terrain, on purpose, because they thought it was scientifically interesting. And the other objective is that they want to show this lightweight and small lander system can work. So SLIM, like its name, is smaller than the usual landers. And for comparison, the Indian Chandrayaan-3 lander which landed on the moon on Aug. 23 last year, it weighed 1,700 kilograms at launch. So SLIM’s about half the size, just 700 kilos at lift off, but it got lighter as it used fuel on its way to the moon. And now it only weighs about 200 kilograms, which is the weight of just two people. So by making landers lighter, and thus cheaper, Japan wants to fly more of these crafts to investigate the moon further. And, a JAXA official told me that SLIM can make these missions more frequent and efficient. And that prepares us for future human missions to the moon. But the pinpoint landing is what's really important here.
Shaun McKenna 14:18
Right, Joel had mentioned that too, that the spacecraft landed within 100 meters of the crater rather than several kilometers away from it. What's the significance of this pinpoint landing success?
Tomoko Otake 14:29
Well, landing on the moon is really hard. It's almost 400,000 kilometers away, and it orbits the Earth at about 3,600 kilometers per hour. And both Earth and the moon are racing around the sun, about 20 times that speed. Right. And the moon's gravity is one-sixth of the Earth’s, but it still has gravity. So any spacecraft needs to be scared with engines. Also, the moon doesn't have any atmosphere. That means the landers have only engines to control them, or else they can be pulled by the moon's gravity and crash. And remember, the surface of the moon is filled with boulders and rocks that make landing a craft really difficult. So until now, you had to just land wherever you could, not where you wanted to. And SLIM was equipped with two technologies to try and make the landing stage more precise. One has been called the Smart Eyes.
Shaun McKenna 15:37
OK, smart eyes.
Tomoko Otake 15:38
Yes. So these are the cameras that capture images taken by the spacecraft as it flies over the moon and match them with high-resolution maps made from JAXA’s previous Kaguya mission, and NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. And I spoke to Kenichi Kushiki, who is the SLIM subproject manager at JAXA. And he said that the smart eyes give SLIM’s real-time position and velocity information that the spacecraft can use to locate the landing site very precisely. So this helps it land safely. And the other technology is the two-step landing technology in which the spacecraft tilts forward from a vertical hovering position, lands on its main leg on the back, then tumbles forward farther to land on his front legs before coming back down to find a stable position.
Shaun McKenna 16:41
Right, this one is kind of hard to describe, isn’t it. So, it is coming down vertically, and then at a certain height, I don't know, maybe around 50 meters or something... even lower, OK, it starts to tilt at a 45-degree angle, and you want to kind of land it on the back leg. And then if you imagine a car coming down, you would land on the back tire, and then the front tire would hit and the back tire kind of comes up a bit... but then it comes back down. So then the car would be horizontal.
Tomoko Otake 17:14
Right. It's kind of like falling on purpose. So this technology is to help it land on the slope of the Shioli crater, which is at a 6 or 7 degree angle.
Shaun McKenna 17:27
So all these technologies, the smart eyes, and the two-step landing technology, kind of help the greater space travel community with allowing craft to land wherever they choose, right?
Tomoko Otake 17:37
Right, even on rugged terrain.
Shaun McKenna 17:41
Even on rugged terrain. OK. And unfortunately, this didn't go perfectly to plan, correct?
Tomoko Otake 17:45
Not quite. So, the mission was a success and Japan managed a pinpoint landing. But, like I said, the craft seemed to get turned around the wrong way when landing, which means the two-step sequence didn't work either, because they didn't land as hoped. And because of that, the solar panels it was using to power the battery were directed away from the sun.
Shaun McKenna 18:14
Right, and so that's why they had to end up turning on this other battery.
Tomoko Otake 18:18
That's right. Well, they didn't know what was going on, right? They just knew that the solar panels weren't working, and so it's kind of like, maybe you suddenly panic when you see your phone at 12% or something.
Shaun McKenna 18:32
Yeah, OK. I know that feeling.
Tomoko Otake 18:35
Yeah. But then just on Sunday or Monday, JAXA reported that the panels were able to catch some sunlight and lunar observation had resumed.
Shaun McKenna 18:46
Have we on Earth been able to see anything so far?
Tomoko Otake 18:50
Yeah. Already, we've been getting some images from the lander and the rovers that went with it. So they show the spacecraft kind of upside-down on the surface
Shaun McKenna 18:59
Because of the problems they had landing.
Tomoko Otake 19:02
Exactly, and it's surrounded by rocks that JAXA had been naming after dogs. So, there we can see this rock/landmark on the Shioli crater called Shiba-inu, there’s one called Akita-inu and one called Bulldog and so on.
Shaun McKenna 19:21
OK, very cute. So Japan, like we said, has had a few misses in its space journeys up till now. What kind of impact does this success have on the space industry in Japan as a whole?
Tomoko Otake 19:33
Well, I think it's definitely gonna spark more interest among the ordinary people, and also among businesses in Japan. One thing that really created a buzz this time around was this like a rover called SORA-Q. So this toy company called Tomy has this toy out and they started selling a tennis ball-like rover, which is exactly like the rover that they put out on the moon. Actually, my husband is a toy collector and so he bought this toy, and even though it's a toy, it's designed exactly like the actual rover released on the moon, and it splits into like a two-wheel machine and a kind of, like, walks and moves. And you can use a smartphone to control it.
Shaun McKenna 20:28
Right, and take pictures of your kitchen?
Tomoko Otake 20:31
I mean, not as exciting as the lunar surface, but yeah. And there's also this very simple video game online that people can play to get a better understanding of the mission.
Shaun McKenna 20:45
Right. I actually spent the weekend playing that game.
Tomoko Otake 20:48
Yeah, isn’t it fun?
Shaun McKenna 20:49
It was funner than I thought it would be. And more informative. I think I really could understand the challenges they had in the two-point landing technology. And just kind of the overall mission on its own. It was a really good way to present it. And it's done in Japanese and English.
Tomoko Otake 21:07
That’s right. I think JAXA did a really good job on this one. And so I think a lot of people are really interested in the moon landing missions and space in general.
Shaun McKenna 21:18
OK, so those are small steps. What about the giant leap here?
Tomoko Otake 21:23
Well, I would say being able to learn softly, where we want to, on the moon, that will help in the quest to establish stations on the moon. And a lot of this is done in service to the U.S. Artemis Program, which aims to establish a base on the moon to assist a future mission to Mars. So not only missions to Mars, but we could also gather resources from the moon and send them back to Earth. And there's a lot of talk about this one resource in particular, it's called helium-3, and that could be a major component in the creation of nuclear fusion technology. That technology would give us almost unlimited power — in theory, at least.
Shaun McKenna 22:12
Yeah, we did a podcast on that last year based on a lot of your work on nuclear fusion. Well, this is all fascinating stuff. Tomoko. Thanks very much for coming back to Deep Dive. I look forward to reading more of your work on this in the future.
Tomoko Otake 22:27
Shaun McKenna 22:38
Gabriel Dominguez 22:38
Hey, Shaun. Live long and prosper.
Shaun McKenna 22:44
Indeed. So, we’ve been talking to our colleagues Joel Tansey and Tomoko Otake about Japan’s recent moon landing and, as interesting as it is from a scientific point of view, or even from the point of view of humanity and its achievements, I found an article of yours titled “Geopolitics in Space: Why great powers are scrambling for the moon.”
Gabriel Dominguez 23:03
That's right. Yes. I mean, politics is getting into everything these days.
Shaun McKenna 23:07
Well, why don't you explain to us the premise of the article.
Gabriel Dominguez 23:12
Well, so let's go back a little bit, the original space race was not entirely driven by science. As you might remember, it took place during the cold war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and the idea behind it was that if one of these countries could get its people on the moon, then that would somehow show the effectiveness of the respective ideologies, meaning, capitalism versus communism. The thing is that once we got past that, there wasn't too much we could find out about the moon. I mean, science has come a long way in the past five to six decades. So now we see the moon in a very different light, namely, as a potential launch platform for interplanetary travel or deep space exploration. But more immediately, countries are seeing it as a source of critical resources.
Shaun McKenna 23:58
So, what kind of resources are we talking about?
Gabriel Dominguez 24:02
One of them is water ice, which would be crucial for any attempt to maintain a manned presence on the moon. Water ice is possibly present at the moon's poles, specifically its southern pole. And in addition to being critical for life, this water could be separated into oxygen and hydrogen and used for fuel, which could eventually, you know, fuel a spacecraft on the moon before heading somewhere else like Mars, for instance. This is important because the moon has about a sixth of the Earth's gravity, that means that lunar launches would require something like 22 times less energy than launching from Earth, and this would make the moon an ideal pitstop for these types of deep space missions. Another important resource that scientists are pointing to is helium-3. So this element is scarce on earth but thought to be more abundant on the moon, and it's considered to be a potential fuel for future fusion reactors. This is key as it would allow the moon to serve as a spaceport or as logistics hub for not only the potential base camp there, but also future explorations and other missions.
Shaun McKenna 25:21
Are there any like minerals?
Gabriel Dominguez 25:23
Yes, they're believed to be trillions of dollars worth of metals and minerals, including rare earths. So this is where we get into the important part. Plans are being drawn up to mine and extract these key minerals from the moon. This means that this fight over resources, not only just helium-3 but also trillions of dollars worth of minerals, is already playing a role in this new space race. It’s basically, it's like saying that fighting over resources is once again the main driver of geopolitical competition, not here on Earth, but also on the moon. And if you take a look at what happened now with the Japan lunar moonshot, this precise landing technology that was demonstrated by JAXA, that is key because it enables countries, and in the future also potentially private companies, to learn exactly where they need to, not only to resupply missions, but also to extract resources.
Shaun McKenna 26:25
Right and then, instead of being between the United States and the Soviet Union, this time, the race would be?
Gabriel Dominguez 26:32
Between the U.S. and its partners, Japan being one of them, and on the other hand, China and Russia. But I think that this time is different. The space race is different from the point of view that it's more than just about prestige and ideology. There are concrete deliverables. If you consider the potential military, economic and strategic advantages of utilizing the moon, then you can see why the stakes are so high in terms of securing prime real estate on the moon. This is also why a large number of countries and private companies have already launched lunar missions, and are planning to launch many more in the coming decades. I mean, we're not talking just about Japan, but there's also India, there's also China, there's the U.S. there's Russia, there's Israel, South Korea is also having a space program. And it's also worth pointing out that there are also nongovernmental entities involved in this. We have for instance, SpaceX, which is run by Elon Musk and Blue Origin, which is run by Jeff Bezos. So I'm talking about the two billionaires here.
Shaun McKenna 27:39
Wasn't there a treaty saying that single nations can't own a part of the moon, though?
Gabriel Dominguez 27:43
You're correct, Shaun. So back in 1967, the United Nations established the so called “Outer Space Treaty,” which says that no nation can have sovereignty over the moon or any celestial body. However, the treaty is vague, especially when it comes to resource exploitation. And as you know, countries are sometimes known to ignore or find loopholes to reinterpret treaties, especially when key interests are at stake. Moreover, this specific streety doesn't explicitly address the rights of individuals or private entities. For this reason, in 2015, then-U.S. President Barack Obama signed a law that supported the right to own whatever you extract from the moon, or asteroids, for instance, and a few dozen other countries have already adopted similar laws. So essentially, what it means is that you can't own the moon, but you can own what you can find there. And you can possibly also secure the best spot to extract those resources. And this is why so many countries are essentially just racing to secure that pole position.
Shaun McKenna 28:52
So you can just walk into someone's camp and possibly take what they found if you start digging?
Gabriel Dominguez 28:59
Well, that's a gray zone there. But it's almost certain that companies and states that have invested billions of dollars into securing prime real estate on the moon, and then use that to extract lunar resources would not be willing to give those away. My personal view is that given the lack of international consensus, there's so many unknowns out there, and but overall, I would be very surprised if we don't see similar arrangements to those that we have on Earth. After all, this is very much earthly geopolitics. The only difference here is that it's just being played out on the moon.
Shaun McKenna 29:41
So Japan has signed up with the U.S. and supports the Artemis Program. And this latest mission with the pinpoint landing achievement is said to help the Artemis Program directly right? Can you tell us a little bit about the Artemis Program?
Gabriel Dominguez 29:55
So first of all, that technology will be key for both for Artemis and The Gateway Programs, but also for future space exploration in general. This is why it's such a big deal. So Artemis is a U.S. that program that wants to return humans to the moon. And they want to establish a sustainable human presence there by the end of this decade. The basis of the program are the Artemis Accords. These are a set of nonbinding principles that were launched in 2020. They are designed to guide space exploration in this century. As of today, there are 34 signatories and these include Japan, Australia, Canada, Britain and well, of course, the U.S. These were among the first signatories. India, for instance, which landed on the moon late last year, becoming the fourth country to do so, they also recently joined the Artemis Accords. But at the same time, you also have geopolitical rivalry here, for instance, China and Russia have not signed on. And this is not only due to their competition with the United States on Earth, but also because Beijing originally objected to the U.S. creating this group outside of the UN. And another reason, but perhaps a more direct reason is that in 2011, the U.S. Congress passed a law that prohibited NASA from using federal funds to engage in direct and bilateral space cooperation with China. That said, many other countries haven't joined Artemis either. So this raises questions as to how they might react to others getting at an advantageous position on the moon. So as a consequence of all of this, it is possible that Beijing and Moscow just come up with their own principles on space exploration and resource extraction, and that those regulations then could challenge the principles underpinning the Artemis Accords. In the worst case scenario, what we could see would be a chaotic situation where there are many interpretations and potential disagreements of what is permitted or not on the moon, and that could also escalate into conflict. That cannot be ruled out. There are already conflicts on Earth. So yep, we cannot rule them out on the moon, either.
Shaun McKenna 32:20
I mean, is there any chance that we as the human race can try and work on all this together?
Gabriel Dominguez 32:26
I would certainly hope so. But if we use history as a guide, that is not very likely, I think, great powers will always try to compete and as long as there is no consensus on how to deal with space, and as long as there is there are disagreements on Earth about how to treat each other, how to deal with each other, those disagreements will just simply be carried on to the moon, into space, and everywhere else. I think that humans are just going to continue being humans, whether on the moon or on earth. So yeah, unfortunately, I'm a bit skeptical in that regard.
Shaun McKenna 33:03
Right. OK, Gabriel, thanks very much for joining us again on Deep Dive.
Gabriel Dominguez 33:07
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Shaun McKenna 33:14
My thanks again to Gabriel, Tomoko and Joel, for joining us to talk about the moon landing on Deep Dive. Dave Cortez producer extraordinaire, did you watch the Moon Landing broadcast?
Dave Cortez 33:24
No, I did not. But to be honest with you after making this podcast, I learned so much about it that I'm actually pretty excited about space too.
Shaun McKenna 33:33
Right. Cool. Well, you know, a little piece of trivia that I couldn’t get into any of the chats, so in Greek mythology, Artemis, the namesake of the Artemis Program, is the goddess of wild animals, the hunt, childbirth and chastity, AND she was the twin sister of Apollo, who provided the name for the U.S. space program that originally brought astronauts to the Moon in 1969. That was 55 years ago this year.
Dave Cortez 33:57
Oh, that's pretty cool trivia. I'm gonna whip that out next time I can at a dinner party or something.
Shaun McKenna 34:02
Yeah. Hey, if we are not providers of dinner party topics, then what are we? Elsewhere in the news, Feb. 1 marks one month since the powerful New Years Day Earthquake that hit central Japan. The magnitude-7.6 quake struck the Noto Peninsula particularly hard, leaving at least 238 people dead. Close to 10,000 people remain in evacuation shelters.
A month on it is reported that around 40,000 households are still without water, as the infrastructure of pipes and purification systems, which were already pretty old, suffered extensive damage.
The situation is better on the electricity front, though not all the way back to normal — the number of households without electricity, which was 40,000, is now said to be around 2,400. For more on the situation, visit japantimes.co.jp.
Deep Dive from The Japan Times is produced by Dave Cortez, our outgoing song is by Oscar Boyd, and the theme music is by Japanese musician LLLL. I’m Shaun McKenna, podtsukaresama.