Since 1957 when the world’s first artificial satellite was launched into orbit, the space age has achieved huge milestones. Currently, a record 3,000 satellites are in orbit, courtesy of the world’s famous superpowers. The battle for space supremacy continues, with […]
Since 1957 when the world’s first artificial satellite was launched into orbit, the space age has achieved huge milestones. Currently, a record 3,000 satellites are in orbit, courtesy of the world’s famous superpowers. The battle for space supremacy continues, with experts predicting that a space conflict is inevitable soon.
Previously, the space competition was a duo affair, between the US and Russia. However, the race has intensified, into a high-level battlefront between China and The United States of America.
This article seeks to explore major players in the space battle, why space is a green battleground, and why space may eventually rule the world.
An Image of the Lunar Surface
Why Space Is a Battlefront
In the words of Everett Dolman, an American professor of Military Studies, “Who controls low-earth orbit controls near-earth space. Who controls near-earth space dominates Terra. Who dominates Terra determines the destiny of humankind”.
Space is important for three main reasons:
1. Source of Unexplored Resources
According to Open Asia, competition for space dominance is essential for the protection of a country’s resources and weapons. This is because whoever dominates space will equally dominate the major sectors of the world including energy, transportation, technology, economy, environment, and cyberspace.
In addition, space is a potential hub for immense, untapped resources. These include Oxygen that is stored in major minerals found in Mars, moon, and other asteroids. These celestial bodies are also rich in water, gases, and minerals that could be an important source of raw materials and energy required for the sustenance of human lives. More than 20,000 near-earth asteroids are already marked as potential hub spots for Metal, Silica, and Carbon-rich minerals.
As a result, most developed countries are in the race to explore these untapped resources through various space agencies.
2. A Hub of Support for Human Activity
For spacefaring countries and the larger humanity, space is a major support base for human activity on earth. Thus, it has the potential to influence the world’s economy, security, and human nature. The world’s economy depends on navigation, communication, time, and remote sensing activities that all happen via satellites orbiting space.
3. A Platform of Military Strength
Space is an essential hub of security for major nations in the world. Thus, it is essential for all military operations and security missions. This includes military surveillance over enemy territory, detection, tracking, or launching of missiles, navigation, communication, and location identification during troops deployment.
The space also acts as an advantageous high point required for nuclear wars, unmanned aerial vehicles surveillance, and the use of sophisticated weaponry. A nation that secures this critical high point will therefore have an upper hand against its arch-rivals.
Who Are the Space Actors?
For a long time, the US and Russia dominated the space race. However, over the past decades, many countries have joined the race, intending to explore critical interests that may shape the world’s destiny.
The major players include the following:
The United States of America
The US currently stands tall at the center of space competition with the largest global investment in space exploration. According to Forbes magazine, the US government has a $41 billion budget dedicated to space inventions and research. Of all the 3,000 satellites currently orbiting the earth, America has about 1,425 in active operation.
In a bid to retain its dominance in the world, former President Donald Trump signed into law, a defense bill that created the US Space Force as the country’s sixth branch of the military. Additionally, the US has echoed an increased urge to send back astronauts to the moon in a project dubbed Artemis. All these show America’s renewed focus and determination to control outer space.
China’s Chang’e -5 On the Surface of the Moon
China is the second-largest investor with 382 satellites currently in space. Since the US incursion into Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003), China began competing for space with the US and is determined to take over. China plans to establish a space station on the surface of the moon, to send astronauts on the moon by 2030, and to build a solar power generation project by 2050.
In January 2019, China landed an unmanned spacecraft on the far hidden side of the moon. It is still planning return flights to explore the poles of the lunar surface.
Incredible Landing of China’s Chang’e-5 Spacecraft:
Although Russia’s dominance was overtaken by China, the country is still famous for stocking some of the world’s most sophisticated anti-missile weapons. Currently, Russia has about 172 artificial satellites orbiting space. As a strategy to take over the leadership of space exploration, Russia reorganized its military by forming an elite force of the Russian Aerospace Forces.
Other Actors in Space Dominance
- New Zealand
- United Arab Emirates
- The European Union
Will Space Rule the World?
Currently, an outer space treaty brokered by the United Nations is in operation. The treaty brokered in 1967 under the international space law, restricts countries from claiming ownership of space, including the moon and other celestial bodies.
However, with the increased conquest for dominance, and military might, the treaty will likely be revised or breached by nations as a result of their military prowess. Eventually, whoever takes control of outer space, will equally rule the world’s major sectors as asserted by Everett Dolman.