Gone are the days of the US-versus-Russia space race. "There are now many space races," as numerous nations and private companies get into the game, "and that's good for science," writes Louis Friedman in the Los Angeles Times. Consider India's recent launch of a Mars orbiter and its successful moon orbiter mission; China's recent launch of a lunar lander and rover and its attempt at a Mars orbiter; Japan's lunar and asteroid missions; Europe's upcoming Mars missions; Russia's upcoming lunar, Mars, and deep space missions; not to mention all the "private entrants in the race" with their own exploration and space tourism ambitions.
Some may argue that it's ridiculous for places like India and China to spend money on space programs as their countries struggle with poverty. But "it's important to remember that the money spent on space is spent here on Earth, employing people in numerous fields," Friedman writes. "We don't explore Mars for the Martians; we do it because it makes us better: technically, scientifically, educationally, economically, and even culturally." And the best way forward is to focus on a planetary goal, both competing and cooperating with other countries to move everyone forward. Click for Friedman's full column.