Accelerating Space Exploration Through International Collaboration
On 4th October 1957, the first artificial satellite was launched in to orbit by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The satellite, named Sputnik, was a landmark mission which brought space exploration to public attention. Taking place during the time of the Cold War, this became part of what is know as the ‘space race’ between the United States and the USSR.
For many years, the two countries competed against each other, one ambitious space mission after the other. Whilst Yuri Gagarin, of the USSR, became the first human in space in 1961, the US sought to land the first man on the moon. As we know, this was achieved on July 20th 1969, in the landmark Apollo mission when Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the lunar surface.
This competitive approach to space may have served each nation well during a time of contentious geo-political relations, however today it is become apparent that international collaboration can prove extremely effective for the progression of space exploration.
Collaboration over competition
The International Space Station (ISS) is a prime example showcasing the advantages of international cooperation. Upon its completion in 2011, the ISS became one of the most prolific projects undertaken together by multiple nations; Europe, the US, Russia, Japan and Canada. Since it became operational, the ISS has facilitated numerous projects, driving science and space exploration further than ever before.
More recently, we are seeing further developments between global partners with the Artemis program. This human spaceflight mission aims to send a crewed spacecraft to the moon and will be the first time human’s have done so since the final Apollo mission in 1972.
Arguably just as extraordinary as the purpose of the mission itself are the partnerships which have been created through Artemis. Although NASA is heading the program, space agencies from 11 other countries are contributing to this project (Europe, Luxembourg, Japan, Canada, Italy, Australia, the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, Brazil, South Korea and New Zealand).
Heading in a positive direction
The coming together of these nations shows incredible progress in the years following the space race, and in doing so development is running full steam ahead. Since it was announced by the Trump administration in 2017, NASA have declared that they expect to land the first female and the first person of colour on the moon by 2024. When this program is successful, it is hoped that the information learned will be used to establish the next big project; sending humans to Mars.
Evidently, the decentralization of space activities is serving as a driver for both technological innovation as well as forming positive international alliances. As this progress continues, we will undoubtedly see further partnerships forming as we accelerate our capabilities for space exploration.
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