A few days ago in a little miniseries of blogs, I wrote about the strange space news that seems to imply that there is some sort of urgency afoot in space circles. Most especially, I pointed out that NASA administrator Bolden wants the USA to be on Mars by 2030, adding that he stated it was "essential to human survival." This curious assertion raised the needle on my suspicion meter into the red zone: why the urgency? Were we going to run out of oil and gas in the next 14 years? I doubt it (I'm one of those pesky abiotic, non-peak oil people, not that I'm all that enamored of "fossil" fuels either). So why the urgency? I implied in my blogs that perhaps there was an urgency from quarters or for reasons we're not being told, and that perhaps one of the reasons for the urgency was military: if one were to defend this little corner of space from "whomever," one would want bases on the natural "defense zones," the Moon, and Mars.
Now there's more fuel for the speculative fires on this score, and once again, the fuel is being provided by the Russians, as many of you brought to my attention by sharing the following stories:
There's that date again: 2030. Note the reasons given for the "urgency" in the first article:
"'The moon is a space object for the future exploration by terrestrial civilization, and a geopolitical competition for the Moon's natural resources may begin in the 21st century,' said a report on a potential lunar program prepared by the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Roscosmos space agency and Moscow State University.
"The program aims to build an inhabited moon base and testing ground by the middle of the century, which would allow mineral extraction on Earth's only natural satellite.
"The project calls on developing a range of long-distance space technology to ensure the country can explore the moon independently from foreign partners. Earlier proposals for lunar exploration focused on strong international cooperation, as it was believed no single country could afford interplanetary projects on its own."(Emphasis added)
Note the three implications of the Novosti article:
- There is going to be (or really, already is) an "exo-geopolitical" contest under way for the development of off-planet resources;
- The Russians intend (like the Chinese) to develop Moon bases for said commercial exploitation of lunar resources; and
- They intend to do this unilaterally, abandoning internationalist "cooperation" models that have prevailed since the end of Cold War, Act One.
And that's the rub: the Russians are announcing the end of the unipolar era, and doing so in space. We are looking, in other words, at more blowback from American aggressiveness in the post-Cold War era, and a new era of space competition beginning. The second article cites Isvestia, which in turn is citing the same Roscosmos study:
"The Russian document underlined the need for speedy lunar exploration, saying "leading space powers will expand and establish their rights to convenient lunar footholds to ensure future opportunities for practical use," in the next 20 to 30 years, Izvestia cited the document as saying.
"The price tag of the mission is uncertain, but the first stage of the program is expected to cost around 28.5 billion rubles ($815.8 million), while earlier estimates indicated that developing and building a piloted spaceship would add 160 billion rubles or so, though Russia hopes to attract private investors to help bankroll the project, the report said.
"But while the program envisages international cooperation on the project, it stresses that the "independence of the national lunar program must be ensured regardless of the conditions and the extent of the participation in it by foreign partners."
Again, this is an intriguing "service of notice," that Russia is not abandoning the private-international cooperation model completely, but rather, an announcement that if it cannot find such partners, it intends, as a matter of its national security, to develop the capabilities any way. It is a clear announcement, again, that commercial exploitation of space is entering an era of Cold War, Act Two.
But again, why the date of 2030? Given Bolden's own use of that date, perhaps we are looking at the deliberate creation of a meme, a meme of "public competition" being pushed precisely in order to ratchet up public support for a new space race. Or perhaps both Roscosmos and NASA know something they're not saying. In either case, watch developments closely, because the same processes of reasoning evident in the Russian study are bound to be echoed in Beijing, New Delhi, and Berlin.
Are where commercial interests go, weapons and militaries are not far behind...
See you on the flip side.