Welcome to Space Race 2.0: It is nothing like the race during the Cold War, which began between the US and the then Soviet Union, with the latter launching the first satellite in 1957 called Sputnik. The race had ended over one-and-a-half decade later with the Apollo 11 landing the first person on Moon and a “handshake in space” between commanders of Soyuz and Apollo. The latest round is much like a contest witnessed during the California gold rush in the mid-1800s, the euphoria experienced at the beginning of the age of oil, and the disruptive innovations witnessed with the advent of Internet in the 1990s. Individuals and enterprises flush with funds are the key players this time. They are betting on a future in which space is more accessible, enjoyable and exploitable, and public trips to Mars and back are a reality.
As the 50th anniversary of the moon landing hovers on the horizon, this new boom of investment and energy for space exploration is taking off, says Mai’a Cross, a professor of political science and international affairs at Northeastern University. Cross quoted, “We’re at a time when space is becoming very prominent in a way that it hasn’t, for the last 50 years.” Her newest research focuses on the international collaboration that fostered the Space Race of the 1960s.
Some scientists see space exploration as an opportunity for industry to thrive, for exploration, and they see the rivalry among various [government and private organizations] as a healthy thing to spur innovation. Government and military officials, such as those at the Space Security Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, this year, describe space missions as necessary in order to “prepare for war in space”.
During the course of her research, Cross also found “a bipartisan, formal proposal for a U.S.-Soviet joint moon landing,” among “piles of proposals” for space activities that would’ve required extensive cooperation among the two nations to finally launch the International Space Station in 1998. Cross is concerned that the way the major players in space exploration today are preparing space-based military operations is eerily similar to the rhetoric used by international leaders in the 1960s, and could potentially create a security dilemma in space where there never was one.
Shahjadi Jemim Rahman