The space race in the twenty first century is a hot topic for those who study both in the fields of politics and science. Many people are excited for the advancement in technology in the Asian countries, who are in a space race of their own. China seemed to be defeating India in every way, until November, when India launched their own probe. Just recently, it was confirmed that the probe was incredibly close to entering Mars’ orbit- about 48 hours away.
But the space race doesn’t end there. It seems that old rivals are at it again: Russia and the United States.
We’ve all heard nearly every story about the hostilities between the United States and Russia. Between Crimea and the Ukraine, we’re generally concerned about what happens on Earth, due to the fact that we live here, and because space doesn’t usually cross our minds too often.
In 2011, the space shuttle used by the United States was retired. Ever since then, the United States has relied on Russia while sending astronauts to the International Space Station. While this method has proved to be reliable, it also is incredibly costly for the United States at about $70 million per seat. With this cost in mind, NASA made contracts with two companies- Boeing and SpaceX in order to create a shuttle that can bring astronauts back and forth between the space station and Earth. These companies were also selected for their ability to create technology that can survive deep space projects, launching the United States ahead in the space race. Optimistically, the shuttle will launch astronauts to the space station in 2017.
The United State’s decision to hire a company to build a new shuttle could not have come at a more convenient time. Back in April, the deputy prime minister tweeted:
“After analysing the sanctions against our space industry I suggest the US delivers its astronauts to the ISS with a trampoline.” -Dmitry Rogozin
The decision was made after several different run ins with Russia, such as the hostilities in Crimea and Ukraine. It was also made after the United States angered Russia with sanctions against the Russian space program and those who run the program. This decision also means that NASA no longer has to fund the Russian space program.
Charles Bolden, the present-day administrator of NASA, makes remarks on his blog that are similar to those made during the Cold War era. He reiterates the importance of the leadership of the United States in space technology and in space exploration. He also states that the contracts with the two companies to create new spacecraft is the best for the nation in order to cut ties with Russia and their space program.
Keeping all of this in mind, it’s hard to not compare this to the Cold War space race between the USSR and the US. And when remembering the course of history, the big question is: how long until Russia retaliates with policies or technologies of their own, whether it is on Earth or in space?