You are correct that there is not a Geopolitical Space Race like in the 60’s. But there is a Geo-economic Space Race composed of corporations and governments for the market share of space customers.
There is a race to consume taxpayer money allocated to NASA and the Artemis program, that much is true…
Just a 10 years ago the US economic sphere was in a declining position in relation to the global market share. Now the US is the leader in the global economy market share of space and growing fast. Note here it is not what NASA does that is a significant driver. But it can add to the growth rate. But it will grow regardless.
All of that growth and leadership can mainly be attributed to SpaceX, not to NASA, and NOT to the Artemis program.
How does all of this background affect the Artemis program?
The effect is that there is highly likely a growth of capability outside of NASA at faster than NASA can even pivot for BEO missions. That is because there is investors interested in the BEO sphere for even though some are high risk ventures, they have extremely very large payback.
I see no evidence of that, and I am familiar enough with the venture capital arena to notice that.
And you really haven’t connected anything that NASA is doing, with or without Artemis, to an expanded level of interest in making money by throwing “stuff” into space. Because as of today the additional value that has been created by throwing “stuff” into space has principally been hardware that provides services to humans on Earth. We don’t need NASA or the Artemis program for that.
The tiny percentage of money spent on human activity in space, so far, has either been for government funded science, or rich-people funded experiential travel. Neither of those is aided by the Artemis program as presently constituted since Artemis relies on the SLS+Orion to move just 4 people to space once every year or so, so the Artemis program obviously does nothing to aid an expansion of human activity in space.
Also there are others that are more interested in less risky but still significant possible payback ventures. This sudden almost showing up of large amounts of investor capital is the engine that will cause SLS/Orion to become extinct but not until there is an operating system that cheaply and more capably replaces it. This is the much talked about the sluggishness of government and NASA ability to pivot to new cheaper systems. On this I diffidently agree.
Elon Musk has stated there is no business model for colonizing Mars, or at least certainly no ROI for shipping stuff back from Mars to sell on Earth – which has been the traditional revenue model for human expansion over our history. And there certainly has been no business model identified for going to our Moon.
Plus none of this is “geopolitical”, in that NASA funding the Artemis return-to-Moon program is not creating some sort of “Space Race” with another “superpower”.
The way the Artemis program has been marketed it SHOULD BE a scientific exploration program that is trying to expand our knowledge about our closest celestial body, but I’m certainly in the camp that is dismayed by the lack of actual science in the early landing plans – or across the program in total. So I’m not quite sure there is any cohesive plan to leverage the taxpayer money being spent, beyond competing for winning some of that taxpayer money for traditional business reasons.