The United States has been the de facto leader in outer space activities since it placed men on the Moon during Project Apollo. That success culminated the Cold War space race with the Soviet Union, and the resultant technological and scientific benefits gave the United States significant geopolitical prestige and the mantle of leadership in outer space. Since the Cold War, the United States continued that leadership by morphing outer space activities not only into an arena for geopolitical prestige, but one for exploitation. Visible programs such as the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station and less visible scientific, military and intelligence programs demonstrate that outer space has practical benefits to be exploited and has significant national security applications, to which the United States has played the role as leader.1 Yet, the United States’ rise to leadership in outer space was not the result of random decisions based solely on political whim. Rather, that rise was the result of national space policies implemented over successive Presidential administrations that served as a guide for the nation’s outer space activities.
Michael J. Listner is an attorney and the founder and principal of Space Law & Policy Solutions, which is a legal and policy think tank and consultation firm that identifies issues and offers practical solutions for matters relating to outer space security and development.