From the end of the cold war when the Berlin Wall fell till now, humanity has been on an odyssey into itself.
This can be seen with the creation of the internet and all the wonderful technological innovations which have followed since then.
The golden age of President Kennedy outlining ambitious goals before congress for space exploration or the Soviets launching sputnik putting the dog Laika or Yuri Gagarin is only felt by those old enough to feel the nostalgia of what humans are capable of when they put their minds to it.
These days, everyone is comfortable with what the world has been able to achieve so far without realizing that we are all collectively shortchanging ourselves.
Now, space exploration programs have been reduced to Missions to the moon or mars; many of which are still at least half a decade off.
Fundamental research programs to solve the basic problems that exist as regards space travel have either been cut down due to budget constraints or have been shut down completely in Countries such as the United States of America.
A Lack of Political Will in the United States
For the greater part of two generations, the political climate of the United States has led to a lack of an objective singular focus that will enable the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to do the great projects that they once were capable of doing.
NASA’s allocation as a percentage of the United States Federal budget has been in steady decline over the past few decades.
In addition to this, the focus of programs has always shifted from one Presidential administration to the next.
These programs have always been determined by the political party of the President in the oval office at the time.
As such, a lack of focus by the world’s premier space agency has been shifting between competing interests with no money to fund them.
Innovative programs such as the shuttle has been compulsorily retired and the United States now has to depend on Russia for access to the International Space Station (ISS).
The Chinese have Been Catching Up
Apart from bridging the enormous gap between both countries in terms of technology and economy, the Chinese National Space Agency (CNSA) has also been busy in terms of catching up in space as well.
From the ambitious Chang’e Lunar program which has been a resounding success (both Chang’e 1 and Chang’e 2) to Chang’e 3 and Chang’e 4 which are already laying the framework for Chinese space supremacy.
The Chinese are already looking at harvesting the Moon’s surface which could one day be fuel for Nuclear reactors based on fusion.
The Tiangong mission series are already redefining China’s logistical capabilities in space as well.
The Xuntian telescope is designed to be very much like the superspace telescopes that report data back to NASA.
Quite a feat in less than two decades which the United States was supposed to have beaten by a wide mile decades ago but is now left to compete be a mere few feet.
For all of this one fact is obvious: The Chinese have been catching up with America in terms of space exploration and there isn’t much that the Americans can do about it.
The Indians aren’t left out as well
Indians have also been catching up in this regard too.
The Indian Space and Research Organization (ISRO) has also been busy with projects of its own as well.
From the Lunar Chandrayaan Series (1 and 2) to the interplanetary mars program (Manglayaan) which took of on the 13th November 2013, the Indians are also entering their own when it comes to space exploration research and development.
Also of worthy mention is the Indian astronomy program (ASTROSAT) which is studies planetary bodies and various physical effects which they often go through.
The Indians who are known for their improvements in all STEM-based fields may also one day stand toe-to-toe with the USA unless America makes an exponential leap forward in this regard.
Russia has been America’s Savior for Access to the International Space Station
Russian space technology has been surprisingly sound since the Soviet era.
So much so that the Russians are now the ones who assist the Americans with the launch into orbit to the International Space Station (ISS).
Despite the no-love-lost relationship between the Russians and the Americans, when it comes to space exploration cooperation hasn’t been lacking in many respects.
The current cooperation on activities that surround the international space station shows promise yet Russian-US relations still show signs of strain where space is concerned as well.
However, the Russian State Corporation for Space Activities (ROSCOMOS) has fared well with its space activities as well.
Although budgets issues (such as those that let the Mir program to go into oblivion in 2001) have limited the agencies’ ability to work on new projects, the Lunar and Mars projects it has in the offing alongside the cooperation with other National Agencies provide hope that the surprisingly durable Russian space tech will be available for use yet again.
The Europeans are Still Cooperating from Behind
The Europeans have been quite conciliatory towards everyone in the space community.
From the cooperation required in building and maintaining the International Space Station to the research programs they have going on, the European Space Agency ESA which is a cooperating agency of several members of the European Union proves its mettle in its way.
With most of its activities centering around earth-based research, the ESA is more focused on creating systems that work on earth than on deep-space exploration.
Privatization of Space Projects Faces Way too Many Problems
NASA announced in June that it will open up the international Space station to private sector participation.
Entrepreneurs like Elon Musk through his Space X program and Jeff Bezos with his Blue Origin program are already dreaming of a new age where the private sector can finally participate in a full scale outside satellite launches.
The truth is that unless a commercial use for space exploration is found, the private sector will not understand how useful space exploration can be.
The other issue to understand is that the space programs still don’t have critical technologies such as energy sources that last eons of time, gravity systems and deep space technologies for the public yet.
So, space exploration is still within the purview of governments or space buffs with very large pockets.
A Solution: Putting Two and Two Together
It is very possible that space can become the final frontier for humanity if a few things can be put in place for its exploitation.
More funding needs to be put in place for new technologies which will make safe habitable for humans (or at least comfortable to a degree).
New uses of space-based technologies and their applications on earth need to be found so that the private sector will become interested in contributing their portion of the quota required to improve exploration, habitation and transportation technologies.
Space exploration should not be limited to tourism purposes only.
Many wonderful innovations can be discovered in zero-gravity environments where stars have no access to rays.
These technologies may even herald innovations on earth.
Finally, new uses of space exploration should be discovered.
That way, the privatization of space will be a huge success; just like the internet has been.
And America needs to take her place like she has been for the greater part of her existence: in the driving seat of innovation.
What do you think? Is space the final frontier of Mankind?
Please let us know in the comments!