Alain Dupas

The New Spatial Conquest Publication date : April 23, 2010

A somewhat nostalgic contemplation of photos of the first spaceflight, by Yuri Gagarin, in 1961, or of the first steps on the moon being taken by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, in 1969, can give the impression of a past golden age. But is the great era of space exploration really over? No, says Alain Dupas: it is simply that we are blinded by the brilliant achievements of the 1950s and '60s. The great age of space exploration is right now — and an even greater age awaits us in the near future.

The twentieth century was the Century of Astronautics. Of course, the Cold War played an important part in triggering the space race, but if people around the world had not been passionately interested in the astronauts' exploits and if they hadn't felt the call of the cosmos, the superpowers would have seen no political advantage in conquering space.
Has the interest in space now died out? On the contrary, argues the author, who sees evidence that a true space renaissance is underway. Backed by wide support, NASA is projecting moon flights. In October 2003, China sent its first taikonaut into space. Never having stopped launching manned spacecraft Russia has now revived its ambitions of travelling to the moon and to Mars. Like China, India has launched its first automatic lunar probe, and hopes to send out a manned flight by 2014. Fourteen of the world's space agencies met in 2006 and 2007 to elaborate a “global strategy of exploration” that expresses a common vision of future missions to the moon and Mars and beyond.

The desire to explore our solar system, with robots and especially with men and women, has become a global one. A new page in the lengthy history of relations between humans and the cosmos is already being written.

What is the role of space exploration in the world today? Is its importance real or exaggerated? Is there a future for space exploration and the development of the resources of space? This is the book to read to understand what is at stake in the new conquest of space, to discover the underlying strategies, the means that have been deployed, the hopes it generates.

Alain Dupas is an expert in aerospace programmes, policies and technologies. A Fellow of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., he teaches at the University of Versailles-St-Quentin, near Paris, and is a Senior Advisor for Aerospace for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), in London.