Often here, such as with this post from earlier this week, the comments evolve (or, perhaps, devolve) into a discussion about whether the US will be perceived as falling behind other countries, China in particular, should they send humans to the Moon before the US returns there. In that theme I offer the following comments on the topic by Charles Miller in his opening remarks at the “Commercial-Military Spaceplane Day” during the NewSpace 2007 conference in Arlington, Virginia on Thursday:
I hear politicians on the Hill, and even some of the space industry’s lobbyists, talk up the possibility that China will beat us back to the Moon. I can only hope they try, because, in my mind, the technology to put a few humans on the Moon in a race is a strategic dead end that delivers little benefit to national security or economic wealth. I am much more fearful that China will make a national decision to develop totally-reusable spaceplanes. That would be a Chinese capability with major commercial and national security consequences.
It should be noted that, in this context, “spaceplane” refers to any launch vehicle with aircraft-like characteristics (reusability, high flight rate, low cost per flight, high reliability), regardless of whether the vehicle is winged or not.