The election season saw a lot of promises and those promises being analyzed under a magnifying glass. But one thing which didn’t make the cut in debates and most speeches was the US space policy.
One might wonder why is space policy of any importance when it comes to elections which are about the people, their basic rights and demands. Well, space and expedition in space have always been important in terms of both intranational and international welfare.
The race to space was important to the US during the cold war and is even more important now with a new threat on the horizon, China.
Remaining ahead in space exploration is essential to the USA’s position as a global power which has suffered greatly due to its poor response to the Coronavirus pandemic and the rise of China.
The Deal with China
China has one major advantage when it comes to space missions. It has the ability to formulate and work on long term goals. The country announced plans to set up a permanent lunar base by 2036 as soon as it set foot on the far side on the moon. Last month, the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) that works under the wing of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) announced the first module of China’s space station. The country conducted 32 successful rocket launches last year.
Watch: China’s plan to create a Moon village by 2036
If China is successful in setting up its space station, it would have matched the USA’s 40 years of a head start on space exploration. This should be worrying for the US, as it can mean it is underprepared for new battlegrounds.
In the last one year, China has conducted 32 successful rocket launches.
What is the USA doing wrong?
The USA has no long term goal in place for its missions in Space as the policy keeps changing with every President and administration. While President George W. Bush, in his “Vision for Space Exploration’, spoke about his plans to return to the Moon by 2020, Barack Obama chucked it off by saying ‘been there, done that’ and chose to focus on landing a spacecraft on an asteroid. Then Donald Trump came and directed the program back to the “Moon to Mars” vision. This was also in reaction to China’s success in landing on the far side of the moon.
Changes since Obama-Biden
Since Obama and Biden left office, there have been significant changes in space discourse; a shift from space exploration to space utilization and development. Space is viewed as an economic investment with the possibility of return on investments to the tune of trillions of dollars. Global space leadership is no longer defined by ‘flags and footprints’ but ‘long term presence and space habitation’ missions.
Watch: Trump unveils the Space Force flag
Since Obama and Biden left office, there has been a significant shift in space discourse — from space exploration to space utilization and development.
What does US need to regain its edge in space?
The USA needs to look back to gain back its edge in space. It requires bipartisan long term focus to ensure the resources and policies are in place for long term space goals which will span up to multiple Presidents. That means if the baton is passed to Joe Biden, it’s his duty to maintain the continuity of the goals laid down during Trump’s era.
To regain its edge in space, the US requires bipartisan long term policy focus for long term space goals spanning multiple Presidents.
US Space Policy, if Biden wins
So, what should a Biden-Harris Administration do if they happen to win on November 3?
International Space Expert Namrata Goswami says, they should continue to develop military space capacity for strengthening space situational awareness and space deterrence beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Geosynchronous Orbit (GEO). This will give the US a solid backing and protection against adversary actions like hacking, jamming, or blinding is of priority.
With China’s plan to set up its own space station, US needs to develop Space Force capacity for the Earth-Moon space known as cislunar. This can be done by continuing recent Memorandum of Understanding signed between NASA and USSF that extends USSF’s sphere of interest. Biden should also concentrate on the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act which was signed by Obama and followed by Trump.
Trump Administration developed an international collaborative effort for utilization of lunar resources under the Artemis Accords. This has resulted in global democratic norms for safe use of lunar resources and placed the US as in charge. As more and more nations become part of it, the legitimacy of the Artemis Accords will increase and give the US a chance to challenge China’s efforts. With China pulling up its socks, the USA cannot afford to look in another direction in its space efforts if it plans on keeping up its position as a global leader.
If US falls behind on the space run once, it will take decades and tons of national resources to make up for it.