Space economy to be a new frontier of cooperation

By Toumert AI Source:Global Times Published: 2019/1/10 17:33:40

Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT

As we enter 2019, human civilization has come a long way since the Russians changed our destiny by flying beyond our blue skies. Major powers understood that the next battle field would take place above us, in space.

Two major space events have happened recently. The lunar landing of China's Chang'e-4 probe is a great technological and communication achievement. NASA's New Horizons completed its epic flyby of Ultima Thule.

These two events should be viewed from different perspectives. They signal a broader shift toward exploration and expanding societal projects at a whole new level.

A few trends started emerging as we moved into the new millennium. Space agencies in China, US, Europe and Russia had started designing a new expansion of economic interests, beyond the traditional market place that is on Earth.

Indeed as Earth's population is growing at such a rapid rate, our planet cannot regenerate enough raw materials as our needs surpass Earth's capacity. And if we have learnt anything from the 2008 financial crisis, it is that our world economy is getting saturated investment wise,  and we have to start innovating in new ways beyond our traditional economic doctrines.

The space economy may be shaping the next industrial revolution, and may be a new opportunity in the making.

First, a major breakthrough is taking place in space mining on the near-Earth orbit. Many organizations have been established to develop the technology needed to make it cost effective.

Moon Express was established in the US by space entrepreneurs, with the objective of mining the moon. Companies like Planetary Resources were founded with the objective of studying asteroids in an effort to find one that is an appropriate candidate for mining. 

There are also other ventures that have received funding with one objective - make mining asteroids viable and feasible.

Second, the space mining projects are related to a bigger goal - space exploration.

There are many projects with serious proposals from both private and governmental entities. The latest successful landing of China's probe on the dark side of the moon is a mission with a hope to study ways of sustaining human settlements at a planetary level. One of the Chang'e-4 lunar probe's objectives is to try and grow plants on the moon. 

The US, on the other hand, with the NASA Mars missions and private companies such as Elon Musk's SpaceX, is intending  to use its reusable rocket technology and spaceships to send 1 million human to Mars within 50 years. Russia is quite busy exploring the moon as well.

If we take one step further in this new vision of space exploration and mining, we see that certain financial institutions have already started integrating space payments into their plans.

PayPal initiated PayPal Galactic a few years ago aiming at dealing with commerce and universal payments in outer space.

The space frontier missions can be a defining moment for human civilization to turn the page of history based on division, rivalry, competition and cold war mentality.

All major powers need to see space exploration as a new beginning for their collective relations. That requires a new way of thinking, where cooperation is key to advance into deep space. And it will reflect positively on their interactions back here on Earth, and offer opportunities for all. 

However there is a fear that we are not only going to expand territory for human beings, but also bring our ideological divisions, cultural barriers and mistrust to this new future that lies ahead of us.

Today, space exploration may be considered inevitable due to the mounting pressures on our natural and economic ecosystems. Space projects are already in motion to take steps toward this new future. So what is next? Will the space economy be the new frontier of cooperation?

The author is director of education with the International Bachelor Program at the International School under China Foreign Affairs University. 


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