You don’t have to be a science fiction author to imagine the scenario. The United States government, earthbound and incapable of taking any action in low-Earth orbit. The Chinese, with ever-increasing space capabilities. A conflict in the Pacific, perhaps over Taiwan, the Philippines, or South Korea.
One by one, American satellite capability goes dark. A day into the fight, U.S. technology is blinded.
Douglas MacKinnon hints at this scenario in the op-ed he’s had published on the New York Times web-site: http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/04/space-the-missing-frontier/?ref=opinion
MacKinnon is upfront about his love for space. He’d like the West to be there regardless of military applications. But if politicians need something sensible to hang their procurements on, why not national security?
China is ascendant on Earth. Should it rise to equal the North American or European democracies, mastery of outer space could be the edge that makes that nation the planet’s leading power. Long-term – and that’s what MacKinnon is talking about – ownership of the moon, Mars, and Earth’s orbit, not to mention the rest of the solar system’s mind-boggling quantity of resources, is strategically important. Yes, they’re far away and exorbitantly expensive to access – for now. But a century ago airplanes were just starting to leave the ground. This year, Voyageur is rocketing past the outermost reaches of our solar system, and robots are wandering the surface of the red planet.
Just because I think the U.S. should be in space – yes, and us, too – doesn’t mean I’m personally volunteering. Being an astronaut is right up there with Russian roulette for risk: http://www.space.com/10694-human-spaceflight-dangers-infographic.html
Just to complain for a moment. Am I the only person who was annoyed with the big deal Canada’s government and media made back in the day over the Canadarm? Yeah, it was hi-tech and well made and a crucial piece of equipment. But I tend to think everything they send up in a rocket – at many thousands of dollars per pound of weight – is hi-tech, well made and crucial. A little excitement was justified, but the focus we put on this relatively lightweight contribution to the space program was a bit much.
Here’s a silly thought? What if we decided Canada would be the global leader in the space race? We could replace the CBC with the CSC. And we could put these two in charge: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2092501/Lego-astronaut-makes-debut-space-help-Mathew-Ho-Asad-Muhammad.html