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SPACE POLICY IN LATIN AMERICA: THE FINAL FRONTIER OF DEVELOPMENT AND SECURITY Robert C. Harding Spring Hill College “Non est ad astra mollis e terris via.” –Seneca Introduction In his seminal book, Pale Blue Dot (1994), the late astronomer Carl Sagan compellingly argued that space exploration is not only an exciting endeavor , but that it is an indispensable undertaking that would ultimately ensure the continuation of the human species. Specifically, he claimed that “. . .civilization is obliged to become space-faring—not because of exploratory or romantic zeal, but for the most practical reason imaginable: staying alive. “If our long-term survival is at stake, we have a basic responsibility to our species to venture to other worlds” (Sagan, 23). In less dire and more immediate terms, the logic of Sagan’s argument is directly applicable to understanding why many of the relatively poorer states of Latin America have chosen to invest, occasionally heavily, in the development of indigenous space programs, an activity that is among the most expensive projects that any state can assume. Currently, four Latin American states have established some launch capability and others are building their own satellites or contributing space-related technology to other countries’ space programs. This work examines the history and rationale for the development of space programs in Latin America and address three principal questions: 1) What are the policy priorities and decisions that have motivated Latin American states to divert relatively scarce resources toward space-oriented projects? 2) How does the brief history of space policy in Latin America compare to the trajectory and history of more established space powers? 3) What role do the space programs of Latin American states’ play in their developmental and security schema? Toward an Understanding of Space Power in Modern State It is important to recognize that behind the lofty rhetoric of space being a “new frontier,” which would be used “to serve mankind,” space programs have instead been largely an extension of military, and later, economic competition among the world’s leading powers. Even the crowning achievement of the Apollo Moon landing had a more down-to-Earth purpose—to demonstrate to the Soviet Union and the rest of the world the extent of U.S. technological superiority in an exercise of extraterrestrial one-upmanship. Therefore, to understand the development of space C  2009 Southeastern Council on Latin American Studies and Wiley Periodicals, Inc. 175 The Latin Americanist, March 2009 programs in Latin America, it is useful to briefly examine the historical and strategic roles that space activities have played in international relations since World War II and the underlying principles of what Everett Dolman (2002) has termed “space power.”1 The realist tradition in international relations theory stresses the importance of the state and its power as the key to understanding a state’s actions and its policy decisions. This perspective argues that it is natural for states to pursue strategies that are meant to ensure their survival and prosperity, even if this occurs at the expense of others’ security. The foundation of this security was described by Kenneth Waltz (1979) to be found in the distribution of power in the international system—the most important variable in assessing the nature of conflict and cooperation within the international system. Power allows an actor to exert its influence and will over other actors in the international system, which, Hans Morgenthau (1985) argued, was the natural trajectory of states. By its nature, the development of a space program is an archetypical example of power because it simultaneously provides elements of what IR theorists call hard and soft power. Hard power refers to military and economic means to influence the behavior or interests of other actors while soft power refers to subtler means to influence others, such as through one’s culture, reputation, or the establishment of international norms to which others will comply. The first states that developed space programs were to achieve all these goals. The evolution of space programs as an integral element of state power follows a long tradition of innovative thinking in national security and power, which can be traced in modern times to the theory of naval power. Alfred Thayer Mahan...


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pp. 175-186
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