Do NOT touch this man's Moon water!

Mine Mine Mine!

NASA chief Bill Nelson has Moon water on the mind. Specifically, he's worried that China might get to that precious American — er, excuse us, internationally unclaimed — Moon water first.

"I think the United States will get [to the Moon] first," Nelson told the Spanish newspaper El País when pressed about the burgeoning US-China race to Earth's natural satellite. "What worries me more is that both they and we are going to land at the South Pole, where we think there is water."

"Water is important because it is composed of oxygen and hydrogen, and that's oxygen to breathe and hydrogen for rocket fuel," he added. "We want to preserve those potential reserves for the international community, and prevent China from coming in and saying that the water is theirs, as they have done with the Spratly Islands."

There's so very much to unpack here, not the least being that the US has historically also claimed various island nations as its own. But Moon water is kind of a different thing, no? Feels a bit more finders-keepers, especially considering that if the US gets its hands on that water first, it presumably won't be sharing with China, either.

Planting Flags

To be fair, Nelson was speaking of the China-US Moon Water in the context of the Artemis Accords, an international, handshake-level peace and cooperation agreement between spacefaring nation-states. As of now, over twenty countries have signed the non-legally binding treaty – China not among them, even though it is planning to land astronauts on the Moon within this decade.

"These are common sense principles, such as peaceful uses of space, coming together to help each other in times of danger... It also rules out that someone could reach the Moon and claim territory and so prevent others from accessing it," Nelson told El País of the Accords. "And here I'm thinking of China and what it did in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. This territory was in international waters, and China came and claimed it for their own."

Look, the US-China relationship is complicated, and a space race between the nations is undeniably underway. But the reality is that if there's a remotely useful amount of water on the Moon, there's almost certainly enough there for everyone.

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