Does Nationalism Belong in Space?

NASA photo: Astronaut Karen Nyberg With Cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and Astronaut Luca Parmitano

Looking at this NASA photo with the nations’ flags so prominently on the uniforms got me thinking.

Is nationalism good, bad or unimportant in space?

Granted, up until now most space related accomplishments have been nationalistic:

  • “we had the first satellite and you didn’t”
  • “we had the first man in space and you didn’t”
  • “we walked on the Moon and you didn’t”
  • “we sent probes to Mars and you didn’t”
  • “we sent probes to Venus and you didn’t”

With the Cold War long over, will nationalism still help us get back into space? I’d argue that it is no longer sufficient to get us into space but will it help?

Will nationalism hinder us in space? Can pioneers afford an “us versus them” mentality when everything else out there is trying to kill them (as Arthur C. Clark proposed)?

Will nationalism be inconsequential like having a favorite sports team? Though after seeing some of the riots in Europe after games, maybe this isn’t a good example….

As a side question, is nationalism likely to be depreciated in space by a different kind of “us versus them” (spacer versus ground pounder)?

This last seems likely to me. We can find plenty of examples here on Earth. Just look at groups that have similar jobs and training. The most obvious examples are those with military backgrounds (especially those who have seen combat). However, this also holds true for: truckers, accountants, scientists, musicians and soccer moms.  They are bonded by similar learned responses and language.

Will that cause its own problems?  What do you think?

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