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Defense Department establishing programs to patrol the space around the moon

The U.S. is working to become competitive as the space race heats up again.

Published: March 7, 2022 11:59am

Updated: March 7, 2022 12:47pm

The U.S. military plans to expand its ability to track objects around the moon and beyond. 

The project, run by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, exists due to the gradual crowding of the space around Earth, which is now filled with objects like satellites and other space junk.

Right now, the Defense Department is responsible for identify all man-made objects orbiting the planet. The Space Surveillance Network is in charge of tracking many thousands of pieces of orbital debris in an attempt to avoid collisions with satellites.

The lab's recently released video shows a rendering of a rocket departing from Earth, releasing a satellite that travels beyond the satellite belt and eventually makes its way to the moon. 

The plan is to bypass the point in space where traditional satellites orbit by utilizing the Cislunar Highway Patrol System, which exists about 22,000 miles above the Earth's surface.

In the video, the lab notes that over the next several decades space traffic to the moon will increase as NASA, and its equivalent agencies in Russia and China will work to send expeditions in that direction. 

China and Russia recently decided to partner up to establish a series of space missions, including one that will build a research base on the moon. NASA's current Artemis missions are shooting to counter the China-Russian effort by once again putting U.S. astronauts on the moon and eventually establishing a "long-term presence" there. 

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