US lunar pull-out leaves China shooting for moon

Feb 21, 2010 by Francois Bougon
File photo shows visitors taking photos during an exhibition on "China's First Spacewalk Mission" at the Hong Kong Science Museum. China aims to land its first astronauts on the moon within a decade at the dawn of a new era of manned space exploration -- a race it now leads thanks to the US decision to drop its lunar programme.

China aims to land its first astronauts on the moon within a decade at the dawn of a new era of manned space exploration -- a race it now leads thanks to the US decision to drop its lunar programme.

US President earlier this month said he planned to drop the costly Constellation programme, a budget move that would kill off future moon exploration if it is approved by Congress.

In contrast, China has a fast-growing project that has notched one success after another, including a by astronauts in 2008, with plans for a manned by around 2020.

The turnaround is viewed as yet another example of the Asian power's rising profile and technical prowess.

"Overall, China is behind the US in technology and in actual presence in space -- the US operates dozens of satellites, the Chinese only a few," said James Lewis, of the US-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

"The real concern is the trend: China's capacities are increasing while the US, despite spending billions of dollars, appears to be stuck in a rut."

The Americans have achieved the only manned lunar missions, making six trips from 1969 to 1972.

But China has been gaining in the space race after launching a manned programme in 1992, and sending its first astronaut into space in 2003.

Only and the United States had previously put a man into space independently.

China aims to launch an unmanned rover on the moon's surface by 2012 ahead of the manned lunar mission a decade from now.

"It is not a very expensive space programme but it is relatively well worked out in terms of autonomy, efficiency and independence," said Isabelle Sourbes-Verger, a France-based specialist on the Chinese space programme.

Some experts have questioned Beijing's timeframe for landing a man on the moon, but Peter Cugley, a China specialist at the non-profit research centre CNA in the , says the actual timing is not that relevant.

"Even if a PRC (Chinese) manned lunar landing doesn't happen in the timeframe initially established, the technical expertise gained and boost in national prestige is what the Chinese Communist Party is most interested in," he said.

China sees its space programme as a symbol of its global stature, growing technical expertise, and the Communist Party's success in turning around the fortunes of the formerly poverty-stricken nation.

Experts see its push for the moon, while Washington backs off, as further confirmation of its emergence as a superpower.

"I see it as a confirmation of America's decline," said Lewis.

"Perhaps this decline is temporary, the product of many errors under (former US president George W.) Bush."

China also has pursued its space ambitions efficiently. The Constellation programme had already cost 10 billion dollars, or nearly 10 times more than the entire Chinese space programme, according to official data.

Fu Song, the vice dean of the School of Aerospace at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said Obama's decision was unlikely to spur to ramp up its space programme, saying its development would remain on a steady course.

But Beijing has other significant Asian competitors to reckon with as it vies to become the second nation to put a man on the moon.

India landed a lunar probe in 2008, and a top official said last month it was targeting a manned space mission in 2016. Japan, meanwhile, launched its first lunar satellite in June last year.

Both developments marked dramatic steps forward for both countries.

But regardless of who gets to the moon next, the sight of Chinese astronauts treading the lunar surface would be a watershed moment for the country, Sourbes-Verger said.

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CyberRat
4 / 5 (3) Feb 21, 2010
Only this "The Constellation programme had already cost 10 billion dollars, or nearly 10 times more than the entire Chinese space programme, according to official data." is a good reason that the USA stopped the moon program
magpies
1.6 / 5 (7) Feb 21, 2010
Are we really going to let them win? I guess we just dont care anymore... Time to buy a ticket to africa.
Hungry4info2
5 / 5 (3) Feb 21, 2010
China has no publicly definitive plans for a manned lunar mission. There is nothing official, only rampant speculation. I'm hoping China does go to the moon, but it does not seem likely for quite some time. They are focused on building a space station for now.
Hungry4info2
5 / 5 (6) Feb 21, 2010
Are we really going to let them win? I guess we just dont care anymore... Time to buy a ticket to africa.


Win? We won 40 years ago.
Mascon123
1.3 / 5 (6) Feb 21, 2010
It's the greatest error ewer made,afther JFKs Gov. by one United States Gov.,to abandon completely idea of the Lunar base.It will have consekvences in development of the USA Astronautics but es well USA will loose position of the first technologicaly most advanced nation.USA will held
position of the computer leader ofcourse but just
it is introvert way in virtualization of one great nation.Mars base is long shoot in every sense untill there is no manned flights towards asteroid belt or towards outher planets and their moons.Only in this case Mars base and instalation in the orbit of Mars would have sense.
Instead ,USA should targeting to the Moon base for a few reasons practical and also future reasons.USA should remember of her great mind es Carl Sagan was.Teraforming and colonization of Venus is the future of the mankind.Only that can have economical and any other sense.To world banking people may be it can apeal NASA project of teraforming of Venus in 50 years?All new world?
frajo
4 / 5 (8) Feb 21, 2010
Are we really going to let them win? I guess we just dont care anymore... Time to buy a ticket to africa.
From a planetarian POV I don't have this problem. It's the same mankind.
zbarlici
5 / 5 (2) Feb 21, 2010
it is the stupidest thing comparing the cost of the commie space program with the cost of the US space program. I`m pretty sure the chinese are paid about 1/10th of what the wages in the US is. Even A LOT LESS than that in most cases. So... What i would like to see is % of GDP spent on space exploration from both nations.. that would make more sense, but don`t freaking compare apples to oranges.
zbarlici
3 / 5 (2) Feb 21, 2010
A big worry of mine is this. Will China share its own technology advancements with the rest of the world? Their hand should be forced to, knowing that the only reason they got to where they are is because of all the tech firms setting up shop in their country. ...i wonder whether or not theyre thankful for the HUUUUGE chinese benefit free-trade and capitalism has provided. Gee aren`t we nice.
With tighter rules on where corporations would be allowed to set up shop, china would probably still be back in the dark ages, and we`d have been used to the higher prices on everything. We would most likely not have an issue with affordability since jobs would still be-a-plentiful due to all manufacturers being forced to stay local.
Mascon123
1.5 / 5 (4) Feb 21, 2010
Dragon will seat on the Moon.USA wil create base on the Mars.Europe will tickeling Venus by means of probes.
And ewerybody will be satisfyed?
China doas not need to share her lunar bust program technology with USA or Europe.USA &Europe in this wery moment do has best rocket boosters from chinese "long march" rocket and far beyond it.
Chinese Moon conquist technology is wery similar to the ex soviet technology in sense of the design.
Venus should be hit with twenty war heads full not of atomic shit but carbon dioxide eaters.We know what eats carbon dioxide and creates oxigen distructing green house effect.Russi
Moon base should be like ISS one international programm lead by nations who has best technology and expirience for example with ISS.Venus doas not have magnetic shild and solar wind can create problems if once Venus is teraformed.But ozone leyer wich spontaneously will be created when plenty oxigen do its job and leyer will be litlle bit strongest from earths ozone leyer.
Mascon123
1.8 / 5 (4) Feb 21, 2010
Russian rocket named proton is much powerfull from
long march or somthing what Dragon can make within next few years.Proton rocket busting up in orbit 100 tons with no problems at all.
Thats what I forget to write down es i see.I started the sentence but not finished.Afther 15 hours on the web my brain is giving up.Sorry.
GDM
2 / 5 (1) Feb 21, 2010
Getting to, and staying on the moon, especially if oxygen, water and minerals suitable for building are present, makes good sense. The moon is a natural "space station" full of resources. However, it takes even less energy to land and "harvest" the many Earth-orbit crossing asteroids. Apophis is a great example: it regularly crosses the Earth's orbit and will be very close at the end of next year. It is an ideal time to plant a regolith excavator, a small refinery, and a fabricator. All this is possible with current technology, a less-than-government size budget, and could be accomplished by private enterprise. Look at the Google X-prizes, and the NASA Centenial Challenges, for examples. Maybe China might not be going to the moon. The resources are easier to get at, and easier to deliver to the Earth, if not used in space to build even more "stations".
plasticpower
5 / 5 (1) Feb 21, 2010
China derives much of its technology from Russia. The space capsule they used for their manned mission is a straight rip-off from the Russian Soyuz that's been in service for over 40 years. I don't know about their rocket technology, but obviously it's more or less on par with everyone else's. However, while you can reverse-engineer a Russian spacecraft, coming up with your own lunar rocket and lander is not an easy task. Also, the Soyuz might have been engineered as a lunar/Martian lander, it was never fully engineered to come back from the surface of whatever it was meant to land on, so they won't be able to use that same piece of tech again.
Mercury_01
2.5 / 5 (2) Feb 21, 2010
Only this "The Constellation programme had already cost 10 billion dollars, or nearly 10 times more than the entire Chinese space programme, according to official data." is a good reason that the USA stopped the moon program


I agree man, NASA just got too huge for it's own good. Too much bureaucracy, and lost sight of what it was that made them succeed in the first place. A handful of occultist, Masonic, and Nazi super- geniuses all in a smoke filled room with nothing but a slide rule and a pencil.
http://www.hulu.c...to-space

Recovering_Human
5 / 5 (3) Feb 21, 2010
OK, so they're going to try to do something that will have already been done over half a century ago with then half-century-old technology. This is supposed to be a symbol of the US's decline and China's taking the lead of the manned space race? Last time I checked, when the US and Europe send people into space, the astronauts actually do things that contribute to cutting edge research. Anyway, unmanned spacecraft have done a lot more for science than manned missions.
antialias
4.3 / 5 (3) Feb 21, 2010
A big worry of mine is this. Will China share its own technology advancements with the rest of the world?

About as much as the west shared theirs with everyone else. Why should they share? It's an economic advantage to have a technological edge. Coming from a capitalist country you should not worry but instead applaude them (or do you only like capitalism when it favors you?)

because of all the tech firms setting up shop in their country.

The tech firms didn't have to go there - they went there because China made it attractive for them. Again: capitalism at work. Good for them.

But I agree with another poster: it doesn't really matter who goes into space - as long as _someone_ does it.
zbarlici
2 / 5 (1) Feb 21, 2010
hey antialias - my previous post regarding china sharing tech with the rest of the world - i didn`t mean space tech, but whatever general consumer tech that gets spawned from it. Obviously unless NASA, ESA, JAXA and the chinese space agencies all come together under one roof sharing space tech can`t be expected. Plus - you can`t expect to succeed in space with BORROWED expertise...
UserLoser
5 / 5 (1) Feb 21, 2010
You're only as good as your last moonshot...Which means we're the losers who can't do it anymore. Funny thing that moonbase thing. If you were to go to Mars indeed the way does run through the moon. You need significant mass to stop radiation. We are going to lift said mass from Earth? We are going to need at least some kind of mine on the moon.I'm thinking O'Neil colony type thing for gravity and Radiation. Problem I see is that everybody want's to run before we can walk. Radiation I think is one of the big limiting factors to space exploration and one that seldom gets mentioned. As the United States totters off the tech stage as it were it's pathetic to watch. We can't do it anymore but people live in a past where we could. If China got serious about space research we'd really be it trouble because they are a country with a track record of not messing around. As it sits now we've invested heavily in a space station we can't get to only from the minds of Washington.
zbarlici
5 / 5 (1) Feb 22, 2010
i got a feeling that even with a "theoretical" propulsion system such as the "polywell QED drive", which would cost next to nothing to fuel, NASA would still find a way to blow budgets out of proportion.. am i wrong?
baudrunner
5 / 5 (1) Feb 22, 2010
"Only Russia and the United States had previously put a man into space independently."

Actually, that's incorrect, techincally speaking. Dutch fighter pilots have flown modified Starfighters into the fringes of orbital space, and probably still do, spiralling back to earth in a lengthy re-entry procedure. And, I foresee spaceflight by civilians as routine events in a couple of decades, with tourist hotels and day-trips the norm, while China is still engaged in government funded and controlled space research. They will encounter the same beaurocratic hurdles that NASA is experiencing right now eventually.
eric_in_chicago
4 / 5 (2) Feb 22, 2010
What i see as the huge opportunity that the USA may miss is to lay claim on any "moon caves" that may exists. utilizing existing structure in the regolith would be the most efficient way to activate the best space station we will ever have.

the Chinese are already surveying the moon for resources.

one cant really build much long term on the surface with all the micro-meteors.

as someone who loves space, i hate NASA. at the age of 10, when i went to a seminar before the first shuttle launch, i asked, "where is the escape hatch, emergency exit module", dead silence, as dead astronauts can attest.

NASA takes as its example, Newton, who dropped objects to study gravity, as NASA continually DROPS THE BALL.

The ISS is/was/and always will be another overpriced waste of taxpayers money

just my amateur opinion...
Mascon123
3 / 5 (1) Feb 22, 2010
Som of you are right about NASA.With ESA is the same thing.Burocracy sofocates briliant and genial
inputs wich som people there is trying to give in.
Lets say it is the fact that to many people is making living buck or euro there in NASA and ESA.
Absolute controll and priorities wich are more terestrialy economical and political and les on the line of choosing the projects wich are more briliant because it requiers more money.Lets say that this mentality,burocratic mentality,favorize
more mediocrity projects.Therefore guy who writes aboyt chances of private Co.in space exploration is right.Private enterpreneurs are allways concentrated on exccelence and new concepts.With no new concepts there is no quality space research.And speaking of manned fligts that counts particulary.
Even chemical,clasical,rocket engine technology is not yet bringed to the maximum of ingeniousity possible.Speaking about nuclear engines composed in the orbit from the parts lifted in to orbit better no words
Mercury_01
1 / 5 (1) Feb 22, 2010
tom93110
5 / 5 (1) Feb 26, 2010
Well, I suppose all of us unemployed scientists, engineers, technicians, assemblers program managers, administrators, project leaders, workers of every stripe can certainly find jobs building bombs, missiles, etc., or sell junk made in China, or flip burgers; or just keep sending resumes out!
Mc3lnosher
4.5 / 5 (2) Feb 28, 2010
Prepare to hear a lot about things China is doing that the U.S. is not. We can't afford the things their growing economy can. We're too busy having a trade deficit, large debt, and fighting two wars, while spending necessary money domesticly. Fancy stuff just doesn't get the go ahead when your ship is sinking.

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