Bharath Gopalaswamy, deputy director for the South Asia Center, and Eurasia Center intern Dylan Rebstock write in the Huffington Post on how the search for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 highlights the US space program’s vulnerabilities:
The recent loss of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 is an international tragedy, and its complete disappearance is mystifying to a modern society based around instant information transfer. As the intrigue increases, space-based assets have taken a more prominent role in the search process. China in particular has been vocal about refocusing their satellites to concentrate on finding the missing plane.
China has pledged the use of 21 satellites, which represents almost a fifth of their total space assets. This commitment is all the more impressive once the numbers of communications, navigation, and scientific satellites are removed. While the space assets of the United States are likely contributing behind the scenes, NASA’s sole public dedication of its Earth-Observing-1 satellite to the search seems marginal next to the 42 percent of all available imaging and earth science assets committed by Beijing.
This public display of peaceful space capabilities is reflective of a modern China with modern space ambitions, not all of which may be peaceful.