Re: Chinese Permanent MoonBase in 2006 - 2007?
- From: millennium <unamity@...>
Date: Sat May 31, 2003 2:23 pm
Subject: Chinese Permanent MoonBase in 2006 - 2007?
The race into space,
29 May 2003
By Robert S. Walker
Are the Chinese serious about human space flight? Most definitely.
And they are interested in doing more than simply going to low Earth
orbit. They are headed for the moon.
For most of last year, the Commission on the Future of the U.S.
Aerospace Industry looked at our nation's position relative to our
global competition. Clearly, the Europeans are determined to challenge
our preeminence in commercial aviation, and the challenge to our
leadership in space is coming from the Pacific Rim.
The conclusion that the Chinese are engaged in an aggressive space
program is my own, based upon the commission's findings, but not
included in the panel's final report. What we saw and heard during our
year of hearings and investigation convinced me that China intends to
be on the moon within a decade and will announce they are there for a
permanent stay. An investment of less than 1 percent of their growth
revenues over the next decade would provide revenue for a very robust
When the aerospace commission visited the Russian cosmonaut
training facility at Star City, we found a Chinese crew in residence.
Since the Chinese space program seems to be basing its technology on
Russian equipment, the presence of Chinese in Star City was not all
that surprising. But where they were training was.
The day we were visiting, the Chinese crew was utilizing the EVA
(extra-vehicular activity) building. You do not train for EVAs if you
are doing simple orbital missions. EVAs are typically related to
space-based construction work.
Put the Star City experience together with some direct discussions
on the Pacific Rim and the picture becomes clear. Many Japanese space
observers are convinced that China has a moon program and that,
ultimately, Japan may be drawn into the competition. India already has
created its own moon mission, in large part because they are monitoring
Chinese space efforts.
At my Washington office a few weeks ago, I met with a visiting
Japanese parliamentarian who specializes in science and technology
issues. I related to him my belief that the Chinese would be on the
moon within a decade with a declaration of permanent occupation. He
disagreed. He smiled and said my conclusion was accurate but my timing
was off. In his view, the Chinese would be on the moon within three to
Regardless of who is right about the time frame, and I still
believe that even a decade is ambitious, the fact remains that the
Chinese are devoting resources and gearing up to do something that we
are no longer technologically capable of achieving in the immediate
future. We went to the moon, planted our flag, gathered samples, took
credit for an amazing achievement in human history and then abandoned
the effort. The space technology available to us today could not be
used to replicate what we did 35 years ago.
For many Americans, our inability to compete in a new moon race
will not be important. Been there, done that. But for our strategic
thinkers and planners, there are some serious questions that arise from
a Chinese moon capability.
First, a nation with the technological capacity to do a sustained
moon program would have achieved an ability to build, integrate and
utilize spacecraft. Without even ascribing any hostile intent to such a
capability, our strategic planners would have to acknowledge the
profound impact on the balance of power.
Second, the Chinese have a long history of undertaking projects
designed to enhance their national image. As the second nation ever to
land humans on the lunar surface, China would attain international
prestige. As the nation that establishes a permanent presence on the
moon, the Chinese would have an ongoing international impact.
Third, as the nation in position to exploit moon resources, China
could leapfrog the world in some important earthbound technologies.
Scientists have acknowledged the usefulness of H3 in helping achieve
nuclear fusion success. The moon appears to be a large source of
naturally occurring H3, a commodity that would be of such value that
the transport back to Earth would be economically feasible.
So far, there has been little recognition of or concern about the
Chinese moon program in U.S. policy circles. But it represents a real
challenge to our leadership role in space.
Our response to the challenge should be aimed not at another moon
program of our own, but the development of technologies that would give
us the option of several different missions within a decade. Building
new propulsion systems, such as nuclear plasma engines, would provide
us with the ability to go back to the moon, but also to go to Mars in a
mission taking weeks rather than months.
The Chinese moon program appears to be a go whether we get back in
the game or not. Space dominance is a 21st-century challenge we dare
not refuse. The aerospace commission concluded that stretching our
technological reach with new power and propulsion options and
developing the capacity to get to low Earth orbit regularly and less
expensively would help us hold our space leadership position well into
Robert S. Walker, former chairman of the House Science Committee,
served last year as chairman of the Commission on the Future of the
U.S. Aerospace Industry. He currently is chairman of Wexler and Walker
Public Policy Associates.
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