President Donald Trump has issued a new Space Policy Directive that will help propel NASA and humanity’s next giant leap – creating a sustainable presence on the Moon and sending astronauts to Mars.
The president issued Space Policy Directive-6 (SPD-6), the Nation’s Strategy for Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion (SNPP), Wednesday, December 16, 2020. Space nuclear systems power spacecraft for missions where alternative power sources are inadequate, such as environments that are too dark for solar power or too far away to carry sufficient quantities of chemical fuels. Space nuclear systems include radioisotope power systems and nuclear reactors used for power, heating, or propulsion. SPD-6 establishes high-level goals, principles, and a supporting roadmap that demonstrate the U.S. commitment to using SNPP systems safely, effectively, and responsibly.
While the US claims that the plant would “support a sustained lunar presence and exploration of Mars”, China speculates military purposes behind the establishment.
Chinese military expert Song Zhongping told the state-run Global Times that the moon is rich in helium-3, which can be used to produce energy by nuclear fusion. In the name of building a nuclear power plant which includes exploitation of nuclear materials, the US may turn the moon into a production site of nuclear weapons, he alleged.
US President Donald Trump has issued the SPD-6 , which lays out a national strategy for the responsible and effective use of space nuclear power and propulsion (SNPP) systems. It comes at a time when China’s Chang’e-5 successfully completed its moon mission and returned with lunar samples.
The Chinese expert claims that the signing of SPD-6 shows the US’ intent to drag China into a space race, just like it did with the erstwhile Soviet Union in the 1980s under Ronald Reagan’s ‘Star Wars’ program. It was the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) aimed to protect the United States from any attack by ballistic strategic nuclear weapons.
Furthermore, the US policy to use SNPP to maintain and advance its dominance and strategic leadership in space demonstrates “American unilateralism”, said Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University.