The vastness awakens us to the smallness of humanity and gratitude for our daily lives, but also presents itself as a new venue for heated competition among countries for national security and economic reasons, experts said Wednesday.
“Space is where a sharp conflict of interest occurs among countries from foreign policy to economy and politics,” said Yi Soyeon, Korea’s first and so far only astronaut, at the 2023 Korea Herald Humanity in Tech forum held at the Shilla Seoul, under the theme "Beyond Earth.”
When it comes to the space race, in which the United States, China and Russia are front-runners and more than 80 countries now have a presence, people often focus on the extent of the investment made for a mission or who plants a flag first.
“I think its (humanity's) biggest responsibility and ambition (regarding space development) should be ‘can it really be developed in peaceful and fair ways?’ and how we can collaborate with each other for that,” Yi said.
With more than 400 people from the space industry and students interested in the field in attendance, the annual forum shed light on the rising industry and Korea’s recent progress in the field, including the successful launch of the Korean-made Nuri rocket, as well as the pending establishment of a national space agency.
“The vast universe is space of dreams and hopes. Korea's space achievements are finally being realized. Challenges that seemed impossible to achieve in our lifetime are being proven to be reality,” Choi Jin-young, CEO of The Korea Herald, said while delivering welcoming remarks.
As a keynote speaker, Sasha Sagan, an acclaimed author and the daughter of the late US astronomer and planetary scientist Carl Sagan, shared her philosophical perspective on the value of human existence in the vast universe.
Referring to her father’s 1994 book titled “Pale Blue Dot,” Earth is a speck of dust in the vastness of space, and feeling humanity’s smallness in the immensity is stressful, she said.
"Looking at the brightness of life right now. We are together in this moment. And the connection that we make with one other ... makes us OK to be feeling small being in a big universe and being here for a short time in the blink of an eye," she said.
During congratulatory remarks, Science and ICT Minister Lee Jong-ho pledged to to take the lead in ushering in Korea’s new space economy.
He highlighted the government's recent efforts to beef up Korea's global presence in the space economy, including the Future Space Economy Road Map that laid out the blueprint for the nation’s space policy in November 2022.
Transformative moves that have been made by the private and public sector to turn the country to becoming space power were presented in the afternoon sessions.
Lee Joon-won, senior vice president at Hanwha Aerospace, stressed the role of the private sector in the new space era. Lee said Hanwha plans to expand its footing in the space internet network, satellite-based urban air mobility and satellite data analysis.
Speaking during a session titled "Korea’s Space Journey," Lee Joon, executive director of strategy and planning at the state-run Korea Aerospace Research Institute, talked about the history of South Korea's space development alongside its future strategies. Lee also highlighted the importance of securing space supremacy in the era of global technology hegemony.
During a presentation titled "Weaving Our Space Odyssey," science fiction writer Bae Myung-hoon talked about the importance of effectively bridging the gap between our familiar neighborhoods and space when creating space exploration stories with Korea as a base.
He also touched on the strength of Korean creators in addressing societal issues within their space stories, and some of the differences between the sci-fi created in Korea and in the US.