Monday 15 February 2021
An under-reported story has reached its climax and may usher in the next step in the building space race. Three countries have had space ships travelling in convoy, racing to reach Mars. Two of them, unsurprisingly, are the US and China. The third, is the United Arab Emirates. If successful, all three countries will achieve a first. The UAE’s first foray into deep space, China’s first independent attempt to land on Mars and the US’ first deployment of a Martian helicopter.
At this stage, the UAE and China have reached our closest planetary neighbour. The US will likely arrive at some point this week. For the US, it will be NASA’s 9th mission to the Martian surface and will be focused on searching for traces of past or present lifeforms.
These missions are likely to accelerate the onset of a second space race. Between the technological breakthroughs of the 2010’s (i.e. Blue Origin’s and SpaceX’s reusable rockets) and the significant resources space has to offer (NASA is planning to explore 16 Psyche, an asteroid with value estimated in the trillions or quadrillions), countries around the world are reinvigorating their space programs. We should expect the 2020’s to be full of scientific and technological breakthroughs, but also increasing competition between countries battling for supremacy and control of resources in space.