America can’t afford to lose Space Race 2.0

A dozen years ago, Peter Navarro and Greg Autry released “Death by China: Confronting the Dragon — a Global Call to Action.” That prescient 2011 book warned of the Chinese Communist Party’s global assault on human rights and the environment and its increasingly assertive military posture. It also had an entire chapter on China’s growing space capability, warning that “China’s aggressive rise into space may turn out to be the ultimate weapon to bring America to its knees.”

I wish that I could dismiss Autry and Navarro as alarmists, but sadly, they were right on target. For instance, “Death by China” cautioned that China’s destructive kinetic anti-satellite testing would be a threat to space navigation and noted that the Chinese were actively testing the ability of powerful ground-based lasers to “dazzle” or degrade U.S. space assets. A few years later, while I was commander of the International Space Station, we were forced to maneuver to avoid debris from a Chinese ASAT test.

‘Red Moon Rising’ argues that landing Americans on the moon is as essential a victory today as it was in the Cold War — but the vision must be bigger.

A few months after that, while looking out the window one night at the darkness of Western China, I suddenly saw a disorienting bright flash. I had been lased from a ground station in China. These two incidents left no doubt in my mind that our Chinese friends have plans to dominate space by any means necessary.

In their newly released book, “Red Moon Rising: How America Will Beat China on the Final Frontier,” Autry and Navarro update the details of this very real threat and offer a set of concrete policy recommendations for ensuring U.S. leadership in space.

Space Race 2.0 is here. While the West’s souring relationship with China has brought us to the brink of a strange new Cold War, the authoritarian nation has clearly eclipsed Russia and is assuming the role of the world’s second space power. China has no intention of stopping there and has declared leadership in the heavens as an official national objective by 2045. If that should come to pass, it will be very bad for America and all freedom-loving people on Earth.

“Red Moon Rising” highlights vital threats that we would face during a future conflict with China in space, including nuclear high-energy electromagnetic pulse weapons. Just as China and Russia have declared a “no-limits” partnership down here on Earth, they also appear poised to cooperate in space, including the frightening possibility of using HEMPs:

Readily available Chinese military documents not only reveal the ability to deploy these weapons but make frighteningly clear that Beijing views HEMPs as a class of “cyberweapons” unconstrained by the international agreements and norms that have so long controlled the use of traditional nuclear arms.

The book also notes that China’s party mouthpiece, the Global Times, has publicly stated, “EMPs aren’t really even an act of war.”

Autry and Navarro do not simply focus on the negative. Their most important insights are concrete policy recommendations for securing U.S. success and a peaceful international future in space. “Red Moon Rising” argues that landing Americans on the moon under the Artemis program is as essential a victory today as it was in the last Cold War but notes that the vision must be much bigger. They write:

The important words here are “sustainable,” “long-term,” and “utilization.” We are not doing “Flags and Footprints” again. We are returning to the moon long-term to utilize the resources there and to build a sustainable space economy centered around commercial activities. The goal is very clear: America intends to lead humanity in settling the solar system and in improving life on Earth with the riches found there. We will not leave the future of humanity in space or on our home planet to be defined by China and Russia.

America’s remarkable commercial space firms are central players in “Red Moon Rising.” It offers a fascinating look at the early emergence of that industry, and many of the policy recommendations hinge around growing our economy, building commercial space infrastructure, and lowering programmatic costs via the increased use of public-private partnerships. The authors wisely counsel, “We will not beat China at socialism by running a centrally planned, governmental space race.”

“Red Moon Rising” is informative and fun to read. Every assertion is backed up with direct quotes and data, and it includes over 40 pages of recommended sources and endnotes. And perhaps most importantly, Autry and Navarro apply their sardonic humor and even find hope in the darkest of future space scenarios.

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