With the launch (we hope) of two astronauts into space for the first time for several years, our focus shifts to the heavens. While are immersed in the biggest threat to our way of life on earth, a new race is beginning above our heads.
Astronauts in space is nothing new. It was decades ago that man walked on the moon. The only incredible thing about that event was how long ago it was. Television, if you had one, was black and white and one channel. The computing power that got them there was the same, so the story goes, that you find in a singing birthday card.
And it didn’t always go smoothly!
The difference now is that this mission is the launch of the commercial era of space exploration and exploitation. If this mission is successful it opens the gates to commercial space flight. And the first seats have been booked, at a pretty eye-watering cost (and for an interesting reason).
Which is exciting.
But while telescopes and NASA missions and now astronauts probe the universe beyond our own back yard, closer to home, the jostling begins.
Space is a treasure trove the like of which we can only imagine. A recently discovered comet had an ‘earth worth’ of some 10,000 quadrillion dollars, so any naysayers who think we spend too much on space just need to let that fact settle in.
The moon is obviously the first treasure trove to exploit. We know it well. In fact, the lines are already being drawn in what is beginning to look like a national and international battle for space.
The Trump administration is working on the Artemis Accords, an international alignment and agreement concerning ‘safe zones’ for mining on the moon. Oddly (not), China and Russia are not ‘in the first tranche’ of partners at the table, even though they are an equal match for anything that NASA can throw upwards.
The idea is that any commercial operation that gets to the moon and starts mining stuff should not be interfered with by other commercial operations or sovereign nations. Which obviously solves any moon ‘ownership’ issues (again, not).
Mars might be next, and 10 or so years away, but the next few years will see a space race that will, unless we are civilised about it, look like the entire blood-soaked history of our planet. On steroids.
It is no coincidence that inner space is now littered with weaponry, able to knock down incoming missiles. Point them the other way, and you have highways to the moon that suddenly look like running lethal gauntlets.
This may be a conspiracy theory, of course. It may be that we can come up with accords that everyone agrees to, and even abides by. But given that we go to war for raw materials on earth, is it not more likely that this new space race will end badly for most and very well for a very rich few?
Let us hope that our two astronauts in space this weekend have a safe trip and do not unintentionally start something rather bigger than they planned.