Posted on Friday, June 13, 2014
By Kadri

Asian Space Race: Rhetoric or Reality? by Ajey Lele

Developing space technology is an expensive undertaking and in the beginning of the space era it was something that only superpowers of the time could do. The world has however moved away from having just a few launch-capable countries to a 21st century that sees Asian countries building satellites, launching rockets and sending men and women into space and even developing their own space stations.

In Ajey Lele’s book the reader gets an overview of the space programs in Asian countries, which naturally include such already well-known players as China, India and Japan, but Lele’s also introduces others that might not have such expensive programs just yet, but do or might have the aspirations to have an indigenous space program.It was quite an interesting and informative read, that also opens up the background to why some countries have space programs and others don’t and what might be some of the problems when launching rockets such as not overly friendly neighbors across whose territory it wouldn’t be a good idea to launch rockets etc.

Although the Cold War space race between the Soviet Union and United States is over, reading spaceflight news in the past few years with Chinese Yutu rover and Chang'e 3 mission to the Moon and India's launch of their first Mars Orbiter mission, might give an impression as if there was a new race going on with participants from Asia - that in particular is the second main topic in the book in addition to the space program overviews. What is interesting though, is that it might seem after reading this book, that there are several space races going on, although they might have little to do with reaching the Moon or Mars, but rather building more powerful rockets than the neighboring country or having a better and more efficient surveillance satellite system.

Asian Space Race certainly gives a better context to the news of rocket launches, as the reader will be able to see which countries are "launch capable" - that is able to launch rockets, and which are able to launch manned missions - Japan and India being the only ones that have that capability just now, but do they have competition? It is certainly quite entertaining to read about what have been some of the near-future plans for different countries and who and when is planning to launch a mission (manned or otherwise) to the Moon or Mars.

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