The space race of the 1960s brought a country together. It put science and technology at the forefront while providing hope of a brighter future for the children of a nation. Now we dawn on a new age as America and China vie to become the first nation to put people on mars. The Chinese Mars plan to reach our celestial neighbor got the go-ahead this week and thus we embark on a new space race.
However, the same rockets that are used to send spacecrafts and satellites into orbit could be used for more nefarious purposes. Intercontinental ballistic missiles use the same technology to bring about destruction. This has led many to speculate if China has other ideas. Or even worse, is this the beginning of the weaponization of space?
2020: Chinese Mars Plan
China’s ambitious space program set another lofty goal for itself. The space agency aims to land on the dark side of the moon by 2018, and then by the end of the decade, it will try to reach Mars. The Chinese National Space Administration held a press conference on Tuesday to outline the Chinese Mars plan for 2020.
Wu Yanhua, deputy chief of the National Space Administration stated that China’s goal is to launch its first Mars probe by 2020. It will carry out orbital fly-overs and some roving expeditions. Thereafter, a second mission to the red plant would collect surface samples.
Shooting for the Stars
The panda capital of the world was late to the space race — the nation didn’t launch its first satellite into space until 1970. In comparison, the United States had already landed a man on the moon by this date. However, in the ensuing decades, China has allocated billions of dollars for research and development of its space agency.
And that is already paying dividends. Since 2003, China has participated in a spacewalk, sent five crews into space, landed a rover on the moon, and launched a space lab. Furthermore, it plans to launch a 20-ton space station by 2020. Talk about having your head in the clouds.
But not everything is peaches and rainbows. Since 2011, the U.S. Congress has prohibited NASA from working with China because of national security concerns. Like with all forms of technology, new advances could be used for peaceful or destructive purposes. Space technology is no different.
Not only can rocketry advances be used for missile delivery, but it could potentially lead to the weaponization of space. For its part, China released a white paper stating that it “adheres to the principle of the use of outer space for peaceful purposes, and opposes the weaponization of or an arms race in outer space.”
It goes to show that while we take the first few tentative steps into space, we must remember that we only have one Earth. So we must do everything that we can to protect this little blue gem.