Space Race 2020s: The Old, The New, and The Wildcards
The cold war space race of the 1960s inspired America as few things before, or since, have. People around the world were glued to their televisions as Neil Armstrong touched down on the moon’s surface and became the first human to stand on a celestial body beyond Earth’s atmosphere. This monumental feat seemed, for a brief time, to open a gateway to the future and to humanity’s wider place in the universe.
And then, a brief three and a half years later, it was over. Trips to space continued. Almost exclusively into orbit. Reusable shuttles were built and abandoned. After the fall of the Soviet Union, an International Space Station was constructed with the aid of the former rival. But it’s now been almost half a century since we’ve had a human on any extraterrestrial object. That may finally be about to change.
I was born at the beginning of the era of space, one year after the first moon landing. I was two years old when the last one occured. Like many boys my age, for a time I wanted to be an astronaut. But by the time I graduated high school the challenger explosion had happened and the American space program was on a major time-out.
And us space fans sat and waited while the world distracted itself from the greatest frontier it ever had a chance to explore.
It’s take the vision of Elon Musk and the over-inflated economy of China, but finally the space race seems to be back on. As we might expect, there are many new players entering the game.
United States of America
America has always been inspired by challenge, deriving energy from conflict and that is just as true when it comes to space colonization.
As soon as they became the only player in the game, they stopped playing. Whether it was the cost, the danger, or the lack of competition, we’ll probably never know. However, after half a century, the U.S. is once again being challenged and they have re-entered the race.
In 2004, President George W. Bush first announced a bold initiative to have a manned mission to Mars in the 2020s after constructing a moon base. No one thought that was serious and, as it turns out, it wasn’t.
Likewise when President Barack Obama announced a similar plan for manned Mars missions by the 2030s.
Since then, however, some serious players have entered the game, providing new challenges. Now, when President Donald Trump announces a return to the moon by 2024 with plans to go on to Mars, it looks more realistic. Especially when he creates a new miltary branch called The Space Force (which, incidentally, has nothing to do with going into space).
Elon Musk’s Space X
While nations play for power, concerning themselves with the military potential of space, Space X has been the true driving force, the real inspiration igniting the passion for the new space race.
The idea that a single person can amass enough wealth to finance such a visionary project has been inspiring for many. Not only has it ignited the international space race, but it’s started a whole new corporate space race. Although Space X remains the only company with the vision to attempt to truly build the future. Most appear content to develop the upcoming space tourism industry.
The most over-inflated economy in the history of the humankind seeks to use their great (and possibly temporary) wealth while they can. In addition to buying large shares in major industries around the world *ahem*Hollywood*ahem* they are looking — where else? — to space.
It may be that China has the right combination of economic capital and political dictatorship to make it happen. Already, they’ve build a base on the far side of the moon. A side that can’t be observed from Earth.
That could imply uses such as anything ranging from a weapon development centre to a launchpad to the stars to a training centre for their own space force. Or they could just being trying to hide any research failures that may occur.
The important points are:
- China is building a hidden presence in space
- The U.S. will want to learn what’s happening and will be forced to build their own moon base.
- We’re going to need all kinds of new space treaties very soon.
Russia may be eager to return to the fray and join the space race, but they are still busy shoring up the homefronts on Earth. However, while they may not have the resources to go it alone, the expertise and experience they gained from their many space missions are surely valuable to the right allies.
India is a real unknown in this game. An up-and-coming country with potential to grow in economic power, they are nevertheless, strong supported both financially and technologically through their ties with the U.S. and lately with China.
However, they have their own space program and are busy putting probes on the moon.
Still, at their current level of development it is difficult to imagine them as a major player and they seem destined to through their support behind the other players.
What are your thoughts on the new space race? Who will form the first stable human settlement on an extraterrestrial body? Are there any other players you feel I should have given mention to? Who would you like to see dominate the space race: companies, particular countries? Or is space big enough for everyone? And what about the U.N. space treaties (more on that in another article)?