NASA Chief: China Will Beat us Back to the Moon

For many Americans, our achievements in space have defined our greatness as a nation. The moon landings, the reusable Shuttle spacecraft, and interplanetary probes that have brought astonishing pictures and data back from neighboring worlds have been triumphs of American technological achievement.

But the last three decades have seen the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) adrift, seemingly without a clearly defined mission. The Shuttle is now ancient technology, a 1970's era program that overpromised and under-delivered on its mission to make space travel an everyday occurence.   

And the boondoggle that is the International Space Station - massively overbudget and virtually useless in any practical sense - has diverted billions of dollars from other space programs that may have held more promise for discovery and exploitation.

AT National Security Correspondent Doug Hanson says this of the Space Station:

"[W]e would probably be further along in our getting back to the moon, and probably have a better shuttle than the current 70s technology clunker if we hadn't sent a gazillion dollars down the black hole, aka the International Space Station.  This was one of the most stunning boondogles in modern history.  It was nothing more than a massive subsidy for corrupt Russian nationalists and a rocket scientist welfare program."

Doug's reference to a return trip to the moon is relevant because NASA chief Michael Griffin believes that the next footprints made in lunar dust will not be American but Chinese:



"I personally believe that China will be back on the moon before we are," NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said in a low-key lecture in Washington two weeks ago, marking the space agency's 50th anniversary, still a year away.

"I think when that happens, Americans will not like it. But they will just have to not like it."

Griffin's candor startled many in the space community, but insiders acknowledge the reality. China has pulled off two manned spaceflights with its own rockets and is eager to head for the moon.
China has a long way to go but it really is just a matter of time. The Chinese don't have to reinvent the wheel to get to the moon - all the technology necessary for doing so is available. It's just a question of applying the technology successfully and having the will to spend the money.

NASA's next generation of manned spacecraft that is supposed to get us back to the moon by 2020 is "next gen" in name only. It is a return to the past with a  rocket/capsule configuration - "Apollo on steroids" says NASA. It will still cost around $2,000 per pound to lift a man into space. It will still use "expendable" rockets to launch the capsule thus adding to the enormous cost of space missions.

On the horizon are a couple of dozen of space start up companies that are finally starting to attract serious investors. While initially these private ventures will concentrate on space tourism, it will just be a matter of time before competition forces the cost of launching their customers into space starts to plummet and other missions become feasible.

The only question in my mind is who will get back to the moon first; NASA or private companies? Given NASA's dismal track record over the past few decades, don't count the entrepreneurs out.
For many Americans, our achievements in space have defined our greatness as a nation. The moon landings, the reusable Shuttle spacecraft, and interplanetary probes that have brought astonishing pictures and data back from neighboring worlds have been triumphs of American technological achievement.

But the last three decades have seen the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) adrift, seemingly without a clearly defined mission. The Shuttle is now ancient technology, a 1970's era program that overpromised and under-delivered on its mission to make space travel an everyday occurence.   

And the boondoggle that is the International Space Station - massively overbudget and virtually useless in any practical sense - has diverted billions of dollars from other space programs that may have held more promise for discovery and exploitation.

AT National Security Correspondent Doug Hanson says this of the Space Station:

"[W]e would probably be further along in our getting back to the moon, and probably have a better shuttle than the current 70s technology clunker if we hadn't sent a gazillion dollars down the black hole, aka the International Space Station.  This was one of the most stunning boondogles in modern history.  It was nothing more than a massive subsidy for corrupt Russian nationalists and a rocket scientist welfare program."

Doug's reference to a return trip to the moon is relevant because NASA chief Michael Griffin believes that the next footprints made in lunar dust will not be American but Chinese:



"I personally believe that China will be back on the moon before we are," NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said in a low-key lecture in Washington two weeks ago, marking the space agency's 50th anniversary, still a year away.

"I think when that happens, Americans will not like it. But they will just have to not like it."

Griffin's candor startled many in the space community, but insiders acknowledge the reality. China has pulled off two manned spaceflights with its own rockets and is eager to head for the moon.
China has a long way to go but it really is just a matter of time. The Chinese don't have to reinvent the wheel to get to the moon - all the technology necessary for doing so is available. It's just a question of applying the technology successfully and having the will to spend the money.

NASA's next generation of manned spacecraft that is supposed to get us back to the moon by 2020 is "next gen" in name only. It is a return to the past with a  rocket/capsule configuration - "Apollo on steroids" says NASA. It will still cost around $2,000 per pound to lift a man into space. It will still use "expendable" rockets to launch the capsule thus adding to the enormous cost of space missions.

On the horizon are a couple of dozen of space start up companies that are finally starting to attract serious investors. While initially these private ventures will concentrate on space tourism, it will just be a matter of time before competition forces the cost of launching their customers into space starts to plummet and other missions become feasible.

The only question in my mind is who will get back to the moon first; NASA or private companies? Given NASA's dismal track record over the past few decades, don't count the entrepreneurs out.