Space race, military race, by Jesús Núñez Villaverde

Beyond the desire for adventure, the technological progress ‘per se’ and the business it may represent, Since its very birth, the space race has been a matter of prestige and, even more specifically, of military power. Space is ultimately the fourth area of ​​geostrategic competence among the great powers – together with land, sea and air. Something that was revealed already in 1957, in the middle of the Cold War, when the USSR launched the Sputnik satellite, surprising a United States that believed itself to be superior. A surprise and a fear that led John F. Kennedy to suggest that before the end of the sixties they would reach the Moon, once again taking the lead. Not in vain Washington decided in December 2019 to create a Space Force, followed in Moscow, in June 2001.

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Since then, and after a parenthesis of less media interest, On May 27, 2020, the United States once again sent a crew into space from its soil and with its own vehicles. (a Crew Dragon ship from a Falcon 9 rocket) and is now bent on the Artemis mission. They are significant steps to return to lead a race to which China has also signed up, which entered the race in 1992 with a program that allowed it to put an astronaut into orbit eleven years later. Now, with its Chang’e program, it has already managed to land on the far side of the Moon (February 2019), it has its own space station since 2021 (Tiangong) and It is already planned to have a permanent lunar colony by 2030 and launch a probe that must land on the soil of Mars. Meanwhile, Russia plans to launch the Luna-25 spacecraft to study the lunar soil in July this year, after a 45-year hiatus. That will be followed by the moon landing of cosmonauts in 2035 and the creation of a lunar base in 2040.

In parallel, more and more private actors interested in taking advantage of the technological advances that allow us to think of large business benefits linked to space tourism, satellite telecommunications and the exploitation of the large mineral deposits, rare earths and, above all, Helium-3 from the solar wind and very attractive in nuclear fusion processes. In this way, a ‘modus operandi¡ that aims at greater public-private cooperation to bear the enormous costs of an exploration that points beyond the Moon. And all this while we only have the Outer Space Treaty, established in 1967, as a control instrument. An instrument that poses a peaceful use of outer space (beyond 100 km altitude) and prohibits the deployment of nuclear weapons in Earth orbit, their installation on the Moon or any orbital platform, as well as the performance of military activities. An agreement that is clearly insufficient to manage a competition that will soon lead to litigation on property claims of what, according to said treaty, is the common heritage of mankind.