Space conquest and the future of humanity

José Bezerra Pessoa Filho, Senior Tecnologist (retired), Instituto de Aeronáutica e Espaço (IAE), São José dos Campos, SP, Brazil.


Satellites and missiles on the global chessboard representing yesterday and today’s disputes among different nations. In this sinister game, called “Cold War”, the defeat of one will lead to the end of all! But the game goes on.

(Picture by the author from the Historical Technical Museum – Peenemünde, Germany)

The author draws an overview of the space sector in its historical, political, economic, technological and environmental aspects. Since the launch of Sputnik in 1957, 11,000 satellites have been launched into space, 1/3 of them in the last decade. At the end of the last century there were 750 satellites operating in Earth’s orbit. Twenty years later, there are 3,500 operational satellites. Over the next 10 years, 20,000 satellites are expected to be launched, mainly from the mega constellations Starlink and Kuiper, belonging to two of the NewSpace’s main actors: Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. These actors are also involved in the proposals to colonize the planet Mars and establish human communities in Lagrangian points of the Earth-Moon system. Such achievements leave no doubt as to the fact that the era of exponential growth and technological disruption has surpassed the limits of the Earth’s surface. Nonetheless, part of all this scientific and technological achievements occurred without considering the limits of the natural resources available on Earth.  Therefore, the human civilizational and development model is no longer sustainable.

In the article “Space age: past, present and possible futures, published in the Journal of Aerospace Technology and Management” (vol. 13), the author offers a comprehensive and updated view of the space sector with its present and future implications with the intent of stimulating mature discussions and reflections. But it is worth mentioning that since the submission of the article to JATM, different facts have taken place in the space world, including the installation of new solar panels on the International Space Station (ISS), which could be watched live through a Smartphone. A few days earlier, however, the ISS robotic arm was hit by piece of space debris, which could have caused a serious accident had it hit an astronaut performing EVA.  As 7 astronauts live on the ISS, 3 taikonauts arrived at the Tianhe module of the Tiangong Chinese space station, on board the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft.  In June, the Brazilian Government became the 11th country to sign the Artemis Accords, opening up the possibility of Brazilian participation in the return of manned flights to the Moon. On a sad side, NASA announced it has lost communication with the magnificent Hubble Space Telescope, due to a computer failure. The James Webb space telescope, by its turn, had its launch postponed due to problems with Ariane V´s fairing.  In the NewSpace world, Jeff Bezos has announced his trip to space on July 20th, the 52nd anniversary of the first landing of humans on the moon. He will fly as one of the passengers on the New Shepard rocket, produced by his company Blue Origin. Until June 2021, close to 1,000 satellites have been launched in just 56 rocket launches.

Image: NASA/Johnson Space Center.

The article addresses the close relation between space and defense, as well as the challenges related to manned Mars’ missions.  Presently, there are eight artificial satellites orbiting the Red Planet, most of them providing support to 4 spacecrafts operating on its surface. Such missions are precursors of future manned missions, which, most likely, will occur as a result of partnerships among public and private entities, from different countries. Two proposals for the establishment of human colonies on the Moon are also discussed briefly, one led by the USA and the other by Russia and China.

In a time in which the scientific truths have been neglected in different parts of the world, it is worth emphasizing its risks. The many satellites around the globe attest the continued deterioration of Earth’s health. To escape from the environmental catastrophe on course, it will be required, in addition to scientific and technological knowledge, to change the operating system of human civilization from the “competition” mode to the “collaboration” one.

To read the article, acess

PESSOA, J. B. Space age: past, present and possible futures. Journal of Aerospace Technology and Management [online]. 2021, vol.13, e3421. ISSN: 2175-9146 [viewed 28 June 2021]. Available from:

External links

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About the author

José Bezerra Pessoa Filho is a mechanical engineer with master’s and doctorate degrees.  He has worked for 31 years on the development of rockets at the Brazilian Institute of Aeronautics and Space (IAE). He has also taught classes at the aerospace engineering course of the Aeronautics Institute of Technology (ITA). He is a member of the Organizing Committee of the Brazilian Astronomy and Astronautics Olympiad (OBA), which aims to promote scientific activities within the community of primary and secondary education throughout Brazil.  E-mail: (


Como citar este post [ISO 690/2010]:

PESSOA FILHO, J. B. Space conquest and the future of humanity [online]. SciELO in Perspective | Press Releases, 2021 [viewed ]. Available from:


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