Russian Soyuz space capsule

Freiner la troisième course à l’espace

WASHINGTON – La Chine, la Russie et les États-Unis affinent aujourd’hui leurs capacités anti-satellites (ASAT) et la troisième manche de la compétition pour « prendre l’avantage » dans l’espace est bel et bien en train de se jouer. À la différence des précédentes, qui marquèrent la guerre froide, elle met aux prises non pas deux mais trois concurrents. En revanche, comme les précédentes, cette course à l’espace nous expose aux risques d’une escalade rapide et de l’intensification du conflit entre grandes puissances. Un ensemble de règles de bon sens pourraient contribuer à ralentir le processus et à prévenir un conflit spatial. Malheureusement, la Russie et la Chine ne semblent guère intéressées par la négociation d’un code de conduite entre puissances spatiales.

La première course à l’espace commence en 1957, lorsque l’Union soviétique lance Spoutnik, le premier satellite artificiel de la Terre. L’administration du président Dwight Eisenhower décide de laisser tranquilles Spoutnik et ses successeurs, consciente que les États-Unis pourront un jour dépasser les programmes spatiaux soviétiques et qu’il est dans leur intérêt de ne pas détruire ces engins.

Le successeur d’Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, arrive à la même conclusion. Mais il fait un pas de plus, se joignant à l’Union soviétique pour réclamer aux Nations unies une résolution sur la coopération dans l’espace. Les yeux de Kennedy se sont dessillés lors d’un essai nucléaire atmosphérique réalisé par les Américains en 1962, qui, par inadvertance, a détruit au moins six satellites, dont un appartenait à l’URSS. Quelques mois plus tard, la crise cubaine des missiles pousse à la conclusion d’un accord sur l’interdiction des essais atmosphériques. En 1967, le président Lyndon Johnson et le dirigeant soviétique Léonid Brejnev entérinent les résolutions des Nations unies avec la signature du Traité de l’espace, qui marque la fin de la première phase de la course militaire à l’espace.

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