Since the 1970‘s China has worked steadily on developing its own space program. Currently, China is still behind the U.S. in terms of space technology. However with its ability to create and implement plans, China could be poised to eventually become a global leader in space. Later this month, China intends to launch an unmanned lab to orbit in an ongoing effort to master skills such as docking which will be necessary for a lunar trip. China plans a manned mission to the moon which might occur between 2020 and 2025. Meanwhile, NASA has no plans for any manned trips back to the moon.
China and other countries have a long tradition of leveraging (some might even use a less friendly word) technology developed here in the U.S. As futurist and author Alex Lightman pointed out, the decline of NASA might force other countries (i.e. China) to actually go out and innovate. Lightman pointed out that countries taking responsibility for their own technical development could be beneficial for space flight as a whole.
Others speculate that when China eventually is ready to set a date for its manned moon landing, it will pull out of the Outer Space Treaty in order stake claim to parts of the moon. Lightman further wrote in an email he that has “no doubt China will make a territorial claim within hours of the first lunar footfall of taichonaut.” The gravitas of a Chinese claim to the moon would be substantial. It’s now no secret as to the potential bounty of resources that are on the moon..
It’s estimated that it would cost less to open a lunar moon than it is to open a new terrestrial one. Some of the valuable resources on the moon could include water ice, platinum, aluminum, and Helium-3 (a potential fuel for fusion reactors).
If it takes another country such as China to reinvigorate public’s interest in space, so be it. It might actually take another country’s achievements in space to serve to serve as the radical wake-up call for the US from its space leadership slumber.
The space program provided many innovations and sources for technology which we all benefit daily from. How likely will potential benefits flow from China to the rest of the world. as they develop their own program?
Don’t count the American or other countries completely down and out. There’s a reasonable chance that several private teams will send unmanned missions to the moon as competitors for the Google Lunar X PRIZE. The competition rules require teams is to successfully land an unmanned probe on the moon and transmit back data to earth. Most of these competitors look at this mission as the early steps for future lunar exploration and maybe eventual colonization.
Some view China’s space program as being a copy of the American manned space program which could prove to be potentially unsustainable approach due to costs. Let the Chinese set their agenda and find out for themselves if their path is sustainable.
China’s advances in space exploration could be a motivator for the U.S. and other countries to take space seriously again. It might be easier to make a few jokes about China and forget about its space focused efforts. The reality is that China understands the benefits that come from in global space leadership. China maintains a long term view on space exploration which the U.S. (along with other countries) could benefit from also adopting. If the U.S. allow its space infrastructure and leadership to erode, the U.S. will most likely miss out on the potentially boundless benefits that will continue to come from being a global space leader.
What can you do today to help?
- Encourage Science Technology Engineering Math education (i.e. STEM).
- Support the STEM program, Teachers in Space
- Remind your Representative & Senators they are not rocket scientists! Let NASA compete all the best ideas for a Space Launch System.
- Learn about various spinoffs that come out of NASA.
- Use your favorite social networking tool to “like” the space focused efforts of, X PRIZE, NASA, Google Lunar X PRIZE competitors, Space Frontier Foundation