On Monday, the United States celebrated the anniversary of the last American moon landing. No one has landed on the moon since Apollo 17 crew. Symbolically, it was on Dec. 11 thatPresident Donald Trump instructed NASA to resume flights to the earth's satellite. There has been so much talk lately about a renewed Cold War. Will this ambitious project provoke a new “space race” between Russia and the United States similar to the race which took place during the Cold War? We asked America expert Ivan Kurilla about it.
“I don’t see Russia in Trump’s statement. First of all, this statement is addressed to Americans. Remember that when Trump was running for president, he had a slogan: “Let’s make America great again.” For Trump, an example of greatness is America in the 1970s, when the U.S. became a leader across all spheres and served as an example of the ideal political system (before the defeat in Vietnam). This was also a period of success in space. This is the time when the Americans believed that they had caught up with and passed the Soviet Union in the space race. Landing on the moon was a victory for the Americans in this space race, a race which they had been losing. We were first with Gagarin, Sputnik's launch, and they lost. And suddenly they took the lead.
“The actualization of the space theme is connected not only with the race with Russia but with the vision of what is included in the definition of “American greatness.” And it turns out that the "space program" is included in this definition.
“At the time, Kennedy set a goal of landing on the moon. This is something that is spectacular that can inspire the whole nation. And for Trump, this particular component is crucial. It is not just scientific achievements that are important to him, but achievements that are capable of impressing people. Landing on the moon is still impressive. In fact, America stopped the moon landings when it concluded they were not cost efficient, although it did not stop believing that a moon landing would still be inspirational. Trump is currently trying to change the situation. Thus, it is necessary to land on the moon once more in order to “make America great again.”
“This time it is not about the race with Russia. Unfortunately, we see that nowadays, the Russian space program has not been very successful. Russia has left the race. Regrettably, we are no longer in direct competition with the U.S. in this sphere. At the same time, it should be noted that Russia maintains its infrastructure. That is, we do not set such big goals, we have setbacks, but the space infrastructure is preserved, and a new spaceport was built. I do not want to belittle what is happening in Russia. However, Russia is no longer a leader in setting large-scale goals, such as landing on the moon, on Mars, etc.
“Maybe Trump's statement will not be taken seriously either, because it's unclear whether he made this statement on his own or after consulting with NASA.”