Major powers compete and cooperate in space. The more they cooperate in space, the less likely it is that their competition on Earth will result in military confrontation. The reverse is also true.
The United States and the Soviet Union jockeyed for geopolitical advantage and produced tens of thousands of nuclear weapons. Both periodically tested anti-satellite weapons, and President Ronald Reagan once proposed to deploy a defensive shield in space. But on the whole, the competition in space between the two nuclear superpowers was remarkably restrained. As early as 1972, they agreed not to interfere with each other’s intelligence-gathering satellites, and in 1975, they carried out a docking of their Apollo and Soyuz space capsules. Despite the ups and downs of U.S.-Russian relations, cooperation continues in space, most visibly on the international space station.
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This op-ed first appeared in Space News on July 8, 2013.