The Space Race 2.0



By : Ayal Shmilovich

If you grew up (or read about) the Cold War era, you remember the space race vividly and its two major players, the United States and Russia (the USSR at the time). Reaching space and the moon was of paramount importance for national security and for our beating the Communist agenda. While those two forces are ever-present in the new Space Race, the push for going beyond the bounds of Earth is actually being spearheaded by the private sector this time.

Elon Musk has led the charge into space, and more specifically, to Mars. According to Business Insider, Musk had dreamed up the idea of going to Mars as early as 2001. His original idea was to send old Russian rockets he acquired to farm plants and show that life was possible on the red planet. However, his ideas were ridiculed and he met much opposition. So, in response, Musk formed his company SpaceX with the ultimate goal of getting to and colonizing Mars. He even wrote a manifesto called Making Humans a Multi-Planetary Species, outlining how humans need to move to colonize other planets because of risk such as climate change. Musk plans to get to Mars by 2020 and people inhabiting Mars by 2024. His development of his reusable rockets and with his Falcon Heavy have made getting to space more affordable and trendier.

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, decided to enter the fray when he earmarked space tourism as the goal of his independently funded Blue Origin. According to the The Motley Fool, Bezos and Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith plan to launch the first space tourism rockets in 2019 and then beyond that, to build a lunar trip and lunar base. They also state that due to enormous energy demands of Earth, "space manufacturing" is in the not-so-distant future. Bezos states that solar power creation is much easier without our weather and atmosphere to decrease its efficacy.

Aerospace and defense stalwarts like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman are also a major part of the party. The CEO of Boeing said that he believes "the first person that sets foot on Mars will get there in a Boeing rocket," according to CNBC.com. Also, Northrop and Lockheed plan to add their arsenals of rockets and technology to the space race in conjunction with NASA, according to SpaceFlightNow.com. Aerospace and defense juggernauts have a cozy relationship with NASA dating back to its formation so there is inherent cooperation between them.

Finally, in a true throwback to the Space Race of the 1950s-1980s, the US and Russian governments are truly getting back into the race for space supremacy. Popular Mechanics stated that Russia is now working on their own heavy rockets and just last week, President Trump floated the idea of starting a "Space Force" as a fifth branch of the military to combat space threats. Again, for those of you who were around in the 80s, this sounds tremendously similar to a Republican, television star of a president named Ronald Reagan and his idea of "Star Wars." While this may sound ludicrous on some level, our increased dependence on satellites and communications in space orbit may lend some credence to a force needed to protect it.

The second iteration of the Space Race is upon us. Many major governments and technology companies are involved, but Elon Musk seems to be garnering the most headlines and making the most noise about it. To be fair, he did start Space Race 2.0 with his original Mars project and he has made the most strides In rocket advancements in the last five years. However, many players are now pushing the envelope even further. Many even believe "space mining" will be a viable option for collecting minerals and raw materials in the future, creating even more momentum for reaching beyond Earth and usher the "gold rush 2.0." If this feels like a science fiction movie to you, you're not alone. But remember, life imitates art, imitates life, and eventually, science fiction has often become science fact.

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