Skip to main content
Sarah Cruddas

Sarah Cruddas: 'The New Space Race'

The world renowned space journalist astrophysicist, and award-winning author Sarah Cruddas on the evolution of space travel

In this guest article, Sarah Cruddas, co-star of Craig Charles: UFO Conspiracies, discusses the evolution of space exploration.

For so long space was the preserve of two superpowers – the United States and the Soviet Union. While some might like to believe that we reached towards the stars solely to explore – the reality is our first foray of travelling beyond Earth was as much about politics as it was that human urge to know what is over that ‘next hill’. These two superpowers wanted to highlight that their way of life was best, and travel beyond Earth was the theatre of choice.

Today though, the ‘who’ and the ‘why’ of space exploration has changed. If you were to get a map of the Earth and colour in all the countries which have access to space assets, you would colour in most of the map. Space is no longer the preserve of the largest and most powerful but something that is accessible to many more. You don’t even have to be a country – just as in the past of exploration on Earth, governments have gone first and private industry has followed – we are seeing the same with space.

Now you no longer have to be a trillionaire (the monolithic economies of whole nations), but instead a billionaire – individuals such as Musk, Bezos and many others who are not only able to access space but transform the way we get there in a way – with an attitude to risk that can’t be taken by governments.

But it is important to be clear that space exploration now is not just for the mega-wealthy, while the business launch - of getting people to space – requires deep pockets. The ‘New Space Race’ for want of a better term is about anyone with an idea. It is people from all walks of life who can now work in the space industry dreaming up ideas from utilising space-based data to make better decisions about how to combat climate change, to moving manufacturing to space and mining asteroids for rocket fuel.

In many ways, the ‘New Space Race’ is not a race so much – as there is no single destination, such as the Moon with the 1960s space race – but instead an extension of life on Earth. We are trying to move everything we do on Earth out into the cosmos, step by step expanding not only where we can go, but what we can do there.

Of course, this may all sound like science fiction, but so is our world of today to the world 100 years ago. Take for example someone who was born at the turn of the 20th century – say for example they lived for 100 years - look at what they would have seen in their lifetime. The birth of flight, commercial aviation, humans travelling to space, to the Moon, huge medical advances, the internet and smartphones. We cannot even begin to imagine what will come in this century in terms of technological advancements.

While we got the timing wrong in terms of when many of these space-age advancements would happen, it does not mean they won’t have. All the crazy science fiction-inspired dreams of space are slowly turning into reality – as well as the ones we cannot yet imagine. The way these dreams will turn from Science Fiction to Science Fact is no different to how we have explored Earth.