Elon Musk And Jeff Bezos Have Added A Whole New Dimension To The Space Race
It looks like a second space race is on the horizon, and while the countries might be the same, the players have certainly changed.
Efforts to get astronauts in space saw Soviet space dog Laika go up as a precursor to ventures that led to man landing on the moon. As the cold war came to a close, the space race ended and the countries involved seemingly had a less antagonistic view of one another.
Nonetheless, it looks like a second space race has begun, and this time a place in the competition isn’t reserved for superpowers.
While the US may not be engaged in a cold war, there is still international tension. Most notably, China has made it clear that it does not want its practices to be impeded by international intervention. In fact, Chinese President Xi Jinping said the country would not tolerate the ‘sanctimonious preaching’ from other leading nations.
The Chinese president said, ‘Whoever nurses delusions of doing that will crack their heads and spill blood on a Great Wall of steel built from the flesh and blood of 1.4 billion Chinese.’
Equally, Russia has threatened to leave the International Space Station and the unity it represents over US trade sanctions. Russian Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin has said US sanctions on microchips are preventing his country from launching rockets. As a result, they told parliament ‘the issue of Russia’s withdrawal from the ISS will be the responsibility of the American partners’.
The issues that obstruct a united space conquest are clear, and China and Russia have now agreed to collaborate on a lunar space station. Not only does this mark a separate venture for the two countries, but it is also designed to create the largest station on the moon. The endeavour will allow other nations to visit, but with NASA aiming to return to the moon in 2024, it is evident that this is not a united effort and a new race has started.
NASA has recently turned to private companies to enable its further space conquests. With contracts handed to Blue Origin and SpaceX, space travel is now being impacted by businessmen rather than traditional national infrastructures, particularly after a SpaceX rocket made history as the first commercial flight to take astronauts to the ISS.
Elon Musk has repeatedly discussed his plans to travel to Mars with his company SpaceX. The development of this technology has huge ramifications for national space expeditions and showcases how private businessmen have a place in the emerging space race.
Additionally, other billionaires have shown their interest in getting to space in more personal ventures. Recently, Richard Branson beat Amazon owner Jeff Bezos in a billionaire space race. However, this has sparked discussions about the importance of space travel while the world has many issues to tackle.
While both billionaires have offered reasoning for wanting to go into the great unknown – albeit just for a few minutes – they have been the centre of controversy. Richard Branson asked for a government bailout for Virgin Airlines at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Jeff Bezos has had his Amazon employees reportedly work in appalling conditions, and received criticism for thanking them for funding his trip to space.
This has led to questions about the need for billionaire space travel and the importance of this competition, particularly when they have the power to reduce poverty and hunger across the world. The billionaires undoubtedly face an undercurrent of backlash, but the focus and investments of the two richest people in the world, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, are evidently out of this world.
While billionaires racing to space is a key component in the modern landscape and its coverage, the privatisation of the technology required plays a more significant role in this developing journey. Blue Origin and SpaceX teaming up with NASA shows the value of contracts, and that traditional national alliances may not be enough in a world where businessmen are worth more than entire nations.
On the back of this, the planned voyages to the moon and Mars appear to be part of a more delicate interplay between businesses and countries that will see the stock of companies rise with missions. Furthermore, developing technology that enables space travel looks set to become more valuable than ever when national relations are strained.
Despite space still looking like a race led by superpowers, it seems that private companies are now the backroom staff and occasionally the ones in the spotlight in the journey into the unknown.
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