Space Exploration

- July 23, 2021
Is a new global race inevitable?
An illustration of NASA's Ingenuity helicopter making the first powered flight by an aircraft on another planet (Getty Images/NASA)
The Artemis program, NASA's ambitious plan to send humans back to the moon and then to Mars, remains intact after the change in presidential administrations — a rarity for the space agency. But the program appears increasingly unlikely to meet its 2024 deadline for landing astronauts on the lunar surface in preparation for a crewed mission to Mars in the 2030s. Meanwhile, other countries, most notably China, are sending robotic probes to the moon and Mars, spurring speculation that a new international space race is underway.

China and Russia are making rapid advances in space technology and have vowed to undertake space exploration on their own, without cooperating with the United States and its allies. Do you think this is dangerous or wasteful? Or will it spur healthy, innovative competition?

Billionaires have begun establishing their own private space tourism companies. Critics say such an industry will exacerbate climate change by emitting massive amounts of greenhouse gases from the fossil fuels burned in such flights. Others say the flights will make the travelers more aware of the fragility of Earth's atmosphere. Do you think space tourism would be a good thing or a bad thing for the environment?

1950s–1980sUnited States and Soviet Union compete for dominance in space.
1990s–2000sMoscow and NASA cooperate on International Space Station (ISS) after collapse of Soviet Union; the commercial spaceflight industry emerges.
2010–PresentSpace agencies around the world plan moon and Mars missions; U.S. officials warn that Russia and China are weaponizing space.

Assuming extraterrestrials exist, should humans try to contact them?


Jerome H. Barkow
Board Member, METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) International; Professor emeritus, social anthropology, Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia.


David Brin
Scientist, Author, Co-founder, Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination.


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