The Landmark Space Age Thucydides: Human Spaceflight in the State Grand Strategic Quest to Address Fears, Advance Interests, and Garner Honor
Air University School of Advanced Air and Space Studies Maxwell AFB United States
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Laymen and space enthusiasts alike continuously ask, Why send people to space The popular philosophic answer to this question is, Because the human race is inspired by other humans exploring the unknown. While this may be true, by itself it rings cavernously hollow in the face of tough budgetary and political realities. From a state perspective, something of greater beneficial substance must be at play in order to justify the high costs and risks associated with human spaceflight. Extensive studies exist to demonstrate the strategic significance of uninhabited spaceflight technologies, such as the Global Positioning System, or communications and surveillance satellites. However, a dearth of equivalent research exists for human spaceflight. As a result, society too often caricatures human spaceflight as an expensive state luxury with little public importance. In reality, the saga of space history is testament to human spaceflights use by states as a powerful grand strategic tool of hi-tech statecraft. To help remedy this dearth of understanding, this study will use Thucydides state power concepts of fear, interest, and honor as an analytical framework to illuminate important linkages between human spaceflight and state goals. Key episodes in the story of American, Russian, and Chinese human spaceflight are studied to highlight the dominant role of fear, interest, or honor as a shaper and motivator of space development. These case studies are useful as they help to extract important grand strategic lessons. These lessons then form the basis of a viable human spaceflight strategy to enhance overall American spacepower and insure the space leadership of the United States for the future in the face of rising competition and dwindling resources.