Why is this important? – It encourages and supports international cooperation, and the development of leading edge technology and scientific research.
Space Technology : Space technology is already highly important in communications, navigation, military applications and fundamental scientific research. Satellites also provide important data for monitoring the Earth’s environment. Exploration of the solar system is opening up the potential for exploiting non-Earth resources for example the mining of rare minerals.
Space costs a fraction of the cost of social programmes and military investment* and is one area where cooperation between rival countries is excellent. It could help focus super-power rivalries on non-violent one-upmanship. There are opportunities in the design of cheap and reliable launch vehicles, explorer robots, colonisation facilities, the study of the data produced by satellites and the clean-up of near space debris.
(*These are USA stats : $1 is spent on space exploration for every $38 on military spending and $98 on federal social spending (this excludes any spending at State level on social programmes))
Examples : International Space Station (ISS); Mars landers and orbiters; Space telescopes such as Hubble; Communications satellites; Military satellites; Solar systems explorers such as Voyager, Cassini.
Skills needed : Maths, physics, computer science, chemistry, space science, exo-biology, environmental science, electronics and electronic engineering, geology.
What will push development : Commercial opportunities and usefulness. National or commercial prestige. Usefulness of the science involved. Military considerations.
Consequences : Space technology has the potential to outsource mining off-planet and to provide an “ark” if climate change is more catastrophic than predicted. Major space projects such as colonising Mars are likely to need the sort of international support that currently underpins the ISS and the Hadron large collider. This has the potential to focus effort on non-violent cooperation between rival super-powers.