The world is at the beginning of its second space age. Unlike the first space age during the 50s and 60s, the second is not primarily driven by geopolitical considerations. Rather prospects of making profit from exploiting resources from a steroids and moon has kick-started the “gold rush” to the stars.
Even as many legal questions are still open with regard to space mining, governments are gearing up. NASA´s USD 19.3 bn budget for 2016 is the largest in 7 years. Since 2003, China has launched 5 manned orbital missions and plans to orbit a space station in the early 2020s.
Space is also more and more accessible for private actors. Since 2015, the U.S. government grants space flight companies (e.g. SpaceX, Virgin Galactic) the right to launch rockets with little government oversight. The privatization of space is changing the economics of space activities with plans for human space flight, space tourism and missions to Moon and Mars.
Plenty new space ships and –drives are in the research and development phase now. Well-known as well as rather science-fictional technologies such as space elevators, solar harvesting or space colonies are increasingly re-discussed and taken more and more seriously. A potential risk is the growing space debris. Even smallest particles in our orbit pose a substantial risk.
Private U.S. space company Moon Express became first to gain permission to land on the moon. In 2016, the U.S. government officially approved the planned robotic lunar landing for 2017.