Claiming new national territories had been very much a European habit, applied to non-European parts of the World. In particular the Portuguese, the Spanish, the Dutch, the French and the English created huge colonial empires.
They were determined not to repeat that mistake of the old European colonial powers when it came to decide on the legal status of the Moon.
It turns out that the Moon has resources that could greatly advance space exploration – and exploitation. One such resource is water.
The prospect of water has given rise to dreams of permanent bases on the Moon, using lunar ice as a source of rocket propellant for more ambitious space travel, such as going to Mars and beyond.
Additionally, the Moon is believed to harbor extensive deposits of Helium-3, a rare isotope which scientists believe could be used to fuel yet-to-be invented nuclear fusion reactors.
Russia and the US plan to launch their own missions to explore lunar resources, in 2021 and 2023 respectively, while China seeks to send a whole series of probes.
This escalating space race is not just about bragging rights; countries are also making rapid progress on developing their military space capabilities.
Some, like systems that can shoot down incoming ballistic missiles, are defensive. But others, such as anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons technologies that can target space assets, are offensive.
Some 4,500 satellites owned or operated by 45 countries circle Earth, providing communications services and navigational tools, monitoring weather, observing the universe, spying and
… they facilitate intelligence, early warning, arms-control verification, surveillance, and missile guidance.
This kind of international competition naturally raises the worrisome idea that a war could break out.