Washington, Nov 3: India is all set to become a part of the Third Space Age, which will see countries cooperating to explore the solar system.
After agreeing on a new global exploration strategy last May, India will be a part of the new space age, along with countries like US, Russia, China, Japan and some European countries. This new strategy will provide for collaboration on robotic and human exploration of the solar system, including the Moon, Mars, the asteroids and the moons of the giant planets.
Recently, a conference held in Vienna on October 11-12, was billed as "the first comprehensive trans-disciplinary dialogue on humans in outer space."
It brought space scientists face to face with historians, lawyers, political analysts, philosophers, sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, writers and others.
Nicolas Peter, a research fellow at the European Space Policy Institute (ESPI), told the meeting that the era of launching space missions to bolster national prestige was long past and that new opportunities for cooperation had emerged since the end of the Cold War. He predicted that an imminent third phase of space exploration could inspire nations to work together in a spirit of discovery.
According to Peter, while humans will play a major role in space in future, it would no longer be in the context of competing states but in cooperation between many parties. "It will involve industry, universities and other non-governmental organisations. This adventure will be driven primarily by a quest for knowledge, involving not only the hard sciences but arts and humanities as well. We're evolving towards an open market situation where a lot of new actors will be able to join the new space race," he said.
At the conference, Peter also pointed out advantages of the collaboration between countries. "Cooperation would allow partners to make the best use of resources and to mount missions that would not otherwise be possible. It will also lend legitimacy to space projects and make them internationally credible. Also, internationally agreed projects were less vulnerable to cancellation through domestic political or financial problems," he said. "Space exploration could in fact inspire nations to work together for a common purpose," he added.
There had been two phases of space exploration since the first Sputnik satellite was launched 50 years ago.
The first phase, up to the early 1990s, was driven by Cold War rivalry between the US and the former USSR with cooperation extended to political allies of the two principal space powers. The second phase, up to the present, has seen the emphasis shift to scientific and practical applications of space with many new countries developing space programmes.
What Peter has described as "Space Exploration 3.0" is now all set to begin.