Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Spudis: The New Space Race

Paul D. Spudis

Recent media reports suggest that China is stepping up their program to send people to the Moon just as America appears to be standing down from it. This circumstance has re-awakened a long-standing debate about the geopolitical aspects of space travel and with it some questions. Are we in a race back to the Moon? Should we be? And if there is a "space race" today, what do we mean by the term? Is it a race of military dimensions or is such thinking just an artifact of the Cold War? What are the implications of a new space race?

Many in the space business purport to be unimpressed by the idea that China is going to the Moon and publicly invite them to waste money on such a stunt. "No big deal" seems to be the attitude - after all America did that over 30 years ago. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden recently professed to be unmoved by the possible future presence of a Chinese flag on the Moon, noting that there are already six American flags on the Moon.

Although it is not currently popular in this country to think about national interests and the competition of nations in space, others do not labor under this restriction. Our current human spaceflight effort, the International Space Station (ISS), has shown us both the benefits and drawbacks of cooperative projects. Soon, we will not have the ability to send crew to and from the ISS. But that's not a problem; the Russians have graciously agreed to transport us - at $50 million a pop. Look for that price to rise once the Shuttle is fully retired.

Read to Post, Submitted by Keith Cowing, HERE.

1 comment:

Vinnie said...

It would have been great to see a new space race, especially with all the possible competitors that it could have included. I talked about this in my blog a little while back, http://withuncommonsense.blogspot.com/2010/02/lacking-discipline.html.