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From moon walk to space wars

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NEW DELHI - Fifty years after astronauts first walked on the moon, space wars have gone from Hollywood fantasy to looming threat. Not content with possessing enough nuclear weapons to wipe out all life on Earth many times over, major powers are rapidly militarizing space. Given the world’s increasing reliance on space-based assets, the risks are enormous.

As with the Cold War-era space race between the United States and the Soviet Union, the new global space race has an important symbolic dimension. And, given the lunar landing’s role in establishing U.S. dominance in space, the moon is a natural starting point for many of the countries now jostling for position there.

In January, China became the first country to land an unmanned robotic spacecraft on the far side of the moon. India — which in 2014 became the first Asian country to reach Mars, three years after China’s own failed attempt to leave Earth’s orbit — is scheduled to launch an unmanned mission to the moon’s unchartered south pole on Monday, a week after the first planned launch was called off at the last minute due to a helium fuel leak. Japan and even smaller countries like South Korea and Israel are also pursuing lunar missions.

But the U.S. will not surrender its position easily. The Trump administration has vowed to “return American astronauts to the moon within the next five years.” As Vice President Mike Pence put it, “Just as the United States was the first nation to reach the moon in the 20th century,” it will be the........

© The Japan Times