The Space to Lead
International Cooperation and Competition in Outer Space
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The security and the economic health of the world, most of all the United States, have never been more dependent on outer space. Public and commercial services, agriculture, finance, communications, navigation and all manner of military operations now depend on assets flying beyond the Kármán Line, the commonly accepted 62-mile-high threshold of space. In effect, the nations of the world decided decades ago to place part of their critical national infrastructure in space. Despite this, space assets have never been at greater risk, as Low Earth Orbit becomes ever more crowded. Planetary threats from beyond LEO also loom.
Some problems threaten sustainable space activity and national security, while some could pose existential threats to whole cities or in the worst case, to human civilization--notably, the hazard of human-made orbital debris, the need to create greater space situational awareness in the near-Earth area and develop a planetary defense against near-Earth objects. What might be an historically narrow opportunity to become a multi-planet civilization also factors into these problems. Dealing effectively with all these issues will depend on marshaling sustained resources, which will require public understanding and support. It will also depend on decisive international leadership, or will suffer from a lack of it. With Project Apollo, the Shuttle and the International Space Station the United States has demonstrated both the audacity for big ideas and the capacity to realize them. To face the challenges ahead, these qualities will be required in abundance.
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