Conflict, not cooperation, is going to define international affairs for the foreseeable future. This will be true both on Earth and, more importantly, in the strategic high ground of space. Fact is, the second space race is on. The world’s powers are playing for keeps. Whoever wins the second space race will rule the world. Despite the competitive advantages that the United States has in this arena, America’s rivals — namely Russia and China — are catching up.
Unless the Biden administration takes a radical departure from where its nascent space policy is heading, America will lose space and, in so doing, the United States will cease being the world’s superpower.
Some people reading this might not understand why it matters if America surrendered space to China. You might be questioning why we should care if the country remains a superpower. But without America’s once unquestionable dominance of space, without access to critical satellites in orbit, the America you and I know would ground to a halt. Everything in our society today relies on signals and those signals must pass through satellites. The U.S. military could not defend itself or American interests abroad nor could everyday life for average Americans continue should U.S. satellites be destroyed or rendered inoperable.
How long do you think America could survive in a world commanded by Beijing and Moscow?
The new space race is the most important challenge of our time. Sadly, few — in government and in the public — seem to have recognized this fact.
China and Russia have announced plans to unite their space programs and jointly develop the moon and its bountiful natural resources. For the record, the moon is believed to hold potentially trillions of dollars of mineable rare-earth minerals. Capturing the moon could provide the Sino-Russian alliance the ultimate strategic high ground over Earth. More importantly, the mined resources of the moon could be sold — and those trillions of dollars could be funneled into the coffers of the Sino-Russian war machine on Earth.
This new space alliance represents the most significant geopolitical shift in national security space policy in recent decades. It is the fusing of the second-most-powerful nation in space, Russia, with the rising, third space power, China. And it is part of a larger geopolitical trend: the hardening of Eurasia against the United States and the greatest challenge to America’s superpower status since the Cold War.
What’s required now from Washington is decisive action. The political will and strategic vision for controlling the strategic high ground — for exploiting its vast bounties — is essential for whichever power seeks to order the remainder of the 21st century. Both Moscow and Beijing are clearly expressing such a will. The Americans, on the other hand, appear blinkered.
The United States must protect its satellites from attack, build reliable space-based missile defenses, insist upon returning American astronauts to the moon by 2024 (the year that China plans to begin construction of a lunar base), keep its manned Mars mission on schedule, and unleash the private space sector as never before — all to stay ahead of the new Sino-Russian entente in space. And Washington must do these things within a few short years.
Should the new Sino-Russian space alliance go unanswered, then these authoritarian states will quickly claim the strategic high ground of space and reduce the United States to a middle power on Earth beholden to the oppressive whims of Beijing and Moscow. The space race is on, a space war is near, and the Biden administration must do everything in its power to ensure that America is defended in space and that its dominance remains absolute.
To keep that dominance, the new administration must call for a minimum $1 trillion investment in both the military and civilian space programs while offering clear guidelines — and steady support — for ensuring America’s access to space and for pushing ahead of the Chinese-Russian alliance.
Losing space to those two powers means also losing the Earth to them. Should our dominance disappear, one can expect a far bleaker future for our children than what many of us expect or want. President Biden must act in support of a robust space policy and he must do it now.