The International Politics of Space, by Michael Sheehan

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I wanted to read an overview of the international politics of space use… so when I was given this book I couldn´t resist to pose high expectations on it.

Space. The use of outer space. It is difficult to image a better example of scientific and technological achievement. We are more and more dependent on it. For many developing nations is an important factor to build its future. For a few nations is the ultimate expression of development. For all of us is an intrinsic part of our present and future daily life.

Being an eminently scientific endeavor the use of outer space is in fact far from being scientifically driven. For scientists like me interested in space it is important to read these kind of books. We can agree or not, but the reality is that we scientist tend to overestimate the importance of science in science policy. The author makes it clear from the very beginning. The whole book indeed present space as an eminently militar playground. The key to obtain and maintain the goal of supremacy over other nations. The reality is drawn around this idea. Sometimes surprising or even scary, the author provides a broad overview of space policy and the characteristics of the main space programs worldwide, and their history. The military and strategic role in the history of space use is clear, and the books dedicates too many pages to explain and justify that. This is not surprising when we realize that Michael A Sheehan has an extended experience as counterterrorism advisor for the military and the government of the USA.

Personally I enjoyed the whole book, but I really liked the chapter about the Indian Space program. It provides the perfect example on how the use of space can multiply or enable important developing goals. Space is costly, but the benefits of the Indian space program greatly surpass the costs. Truly inspiring.

The combination of “Policy”, “International relations” and “Space” creates a unique and extremely interesting playground. The importance of  ”Science” as the actual enabler seems to be forgotten on this book, but may be I am again overestimating it ;)

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