In 2003, China sent its first astronauts into orbit around the earth. The space race is on again.
This article was written by James Durso, the Managing Director of Corsair LLC. He was a professional staff member at the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission and the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Durso served as a U.S. Navy officer for 20 years and specialised in logistics and security assistance.
Since then, China has slowly and resolutely expanded its space program, increasing its clout as an aerospace powerhouse, and a challenger to the space programs of the U.S., Russia, and the European Union.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) annual report to Congress on Chinese military developments, China’s military space program “continues to mature rapidly”. Most recently, China made history by landing a craft on the dark side of the moon, a feat never before accomplished.
China has made enormous strides in aerospace technology and innovation by a combination of generous government funding, indigenous R&D, and industrial espionage which made a priority of aerospace technology.
These advances pose a potential challenge to the United States’ space supremacy, and the moon landing may be the catalyst for a competition between the United States and China.
China is increasing its space program in an attempt to become an “aerospace superpower” and take command of the ultimate high ground with an eye to a future defeat of the United States. Thus, China’s desire to militarize space may sit uneasily by the space programs of Russia and the U.S. which, after a Cold War-inspired race to the moon, settled into a collaborative program through projects such as the International Space Station.
While the potential for space cooperation between the United States and China certainly exists, there is no doubt that China’s growing aerospace capabilities make it a potential threat to American sovereignty and other nations’ use of the space “commons.”
China could soon surpass the U.S. in research and development spending, threaten to overtake America’s technical leadership. If America is to retain its primacy, it cannot delay while other nations innovate, especially when such innovation could prove to be a threat to national security.
How can America ensure its continued competitiveness in space?
The most effective way to maintain stability among nations and the free use of the space commons is to build up our space capabilities and implement a “peace through strength” strategy.