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Who’s the boss of the chicken farm?

As a counterpoint to the recent Houston Chronicle op-ed about the need to “stay the course” on the exploration program or else lose out to the Chinese, among other recent statements that have suggested that the US is in danger of falling behind to the Chinese in human spaceflight, a reader passed along this China Daily article from earlier this month. In it, Hu Hao, the director of China’s “moon exploration center” said that China had no plans for a human lunar mission by 2020, as the country was only now making its initial steps in robotic lunar exploration. As Hu colorfully put it: “You can’t declare yourself the boss of a chicken farm when you’ve only got one egg now, can you?” That’s a message that hasn’t reached—or is being ignored by—some in the US, though.

26 comments to Who’s the boss of the chicken farm?

  • Expect Mark Whittington to show up any minute to inform us that this is simply a sino-disinformation campaign to take us off our guard, so they can sneak up on us and take over the moon while we aren’t looking.

  • Earl Blake

    Thank God we have men like Mark Whittington to see through the clever Chinese ruse! :-)

  • MarkWhittington

    Rand, Earl, you got me there. Of course the Chinese government always tells the truth about everything.

  • Al Fansome

    Dang it.

    I really wish the Chinese would race us to the Moon. Doing so would be a total dead end (for them.)

    Since we should not assume the competition is stupid, I am more worried they will do something smart.

    - Al

    “Rocket science is not politics, which is why politicians do not understand rocket science.”

  • ravenstar

    Please don’t point this out to the politicians. We finally have them panicked into at least considering the continual funding of some kind of space program. If they take this as “the new truth”, the only space program we’ll have are reruns of Star Trek of some sort.

  • MarkWhittington

    Ravenstar, you are in danger of making certain people very enraged. They’re conception of a space program is some guy taking rich people up on sub orbital jaunts. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but if that’s the only thing that happens, Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica will be more interesting to the common folks.

  • anonymous.space

    “Of course the Chinese government always tells the truth about everything.”

    And the evidence that Hu Hao is lying is… ?

    “Please don’t point this out to the politicians. We finally have them panicked into at least considering the continual funding of some kind of space program.”

    Only Griffin and a few congressmen with NASA field centers in their districts/states trot out the Chinese competition argument. Washington at large is not buying into or assigning any priority to it, which is partly why attempts to boost NASA’s human space flight budget, like the Mikulski “miracle”, keep falling short. There’s no physical evidence of a Chinese human lunar effort, and even if there was, we’re in no Cold War-era, nuclear-tipped-ICBM, technology race with China. Better justifications for the U.S. human space flight program need to be found.

    FWIW…

  • Z-Bob

    The Chinese and everyone else are irrelevant. If we’re a great nation, then we do great things.

    The bottom line: Is America going to the moon, or is it just going to TALK about going to the moon?

  • SpaceMan

    “…Is America going to the moon, or is it just going to TALK about going to the moon?” – Z-Bob

    Given the last 40 years as a guide I`d bet on talk, talk, talk.

    No guts, no glory.

  • I am more worried they will do something smart.

    Not to worry: we’re talking about space policy here, Al. Chinese, American, South Ossetian — what are the odds?

  • Anon

    And the evidence the Russians were racing us to the Moon in 1961 was?

  • realist

    The community of nations today is much more integrated and cohesive than it was almost 50 years ago. Has the reality of our Global Village eluded you, Anon? While China is led by a totalitarian regime, as was Russia in the 60′s, China is a bastion of capitalism, and the international economic linkages have greatly expanded since the Cold War. So the Russian comparison ultimately is a weak one.

    This century’s defining challenge will be dealing with the effects of global climate change and peak oil, and all nations are in this struggle together. I think our world has grown to be civilized enough and cooperate well enough to take this challenge on as a unified world. To embrace the alternative is unsupported by our growing tendency towards international cooperation.

  • And the evidence the Russians were racing us to the Moon in 1961 was?

    There is abundant evidence from the time (vastly more of which came out in the nineties as we got hold of a lot of Soviet documents). They worked on many vehicles that could have had no other purpose.

    They only gave up and pretended they weren’t racing after it became clear they couldn’t win.

  • ravenstar

    OK — this is scary. An intelligent, well-thought out discussion by a bunch of people who care about the future. Let not the pundits find us, or someone will buy Paris Hilton a ticket on Virgin, and we will be lost in a sea of Pop-itis.

  • Anon

    Rand,

    How many of those designs date to before May, 1961. Yes, after the vhallenge was issued there were many designs for lunar vehicles. But how many before it?

    And how many public statements were made by Russian that the Moon was goal fo their space program before May 1961?

    In short what evidence did JFK and the space policy community have that the Moon was the goal of the Soveit Space program?

  • Al Fansome

    ANON: In short what evidence did JFK and the space policy community have that the Moon was the goal of the Soveit Space program?

    That is not a valid test.

    White House recordings make it clear that the President Kennedy knew this was a race from the very beginning — that “the Soviet Union has made this a test of the system”. Both Sputnik and Gagarin were general declarations of a race in the heavens between two says of life.

    But it was the U.S. that picked the rules of the next race — which was a race to the Moon.

    Dwayne Day has written at article at the “The Space Review” which reports some of the evidence on this issue:

    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/735/1

    DAY: That recording, number 60 in the Kennedy Library, concerned a November 1962 meeting between Kennedy, Webb, and several other top White House and NASA officials to discuss the NASA budget. During that meeting, Kennedy made the comment that “I’m not that interested in space…” explaining that he supported the lunar program because it was a race against the Soviets: “the Soviet Union has made this a test of the system. So that’s why we’re doing it,” Kennedy explained.

    I am too busy to track it down, but I recall other evidence shows that before picking “a man on the Moon” as the goal, JFK asked for recommendations for a space race that the U.S. could definitively win, which was beyond the reach of the Soviets, and which would definitively show that the U.S. was superior.

    In summary — the Soviets made it a race, but it was the U.S. that declared it was now a race to the Moon. The Soviets had to either say “That is too tough for us … you win” or start their own effort to put a man on the Moon.

    What does this mean for China and a race to the Moon?

    There is no race.

    1) China has not declared “any tests between the systems” in the heavens above, like the Soviets did.

    2) Dr. Marburger of the WH OSTP has made it very clear that the U.S. will not be participating in any races with China to the Moon. So has Dr. Griffin.

    Anybody who wants to recreate the conditions of Apollo either A) Does not understand history, or B) Does not understand how politicians think, or C) Both.

    FWIW,

    - Al

    “Politics is not rocket science, which is why rocket scientists do not understand politics.”

  • Al Fansome

    More thoughts.

    China may have declared a race against the U.S. — but, if anything, they have declared their intent to bury us “economically”. In other words, China may think they can one up us at capitalism some time in this Century.

    Which creates the question — If China might be engaging in a race based on capitalism, why do some want to create a race based on a 45-year old socialist model?

    An intentionally provocative question — are Republicans who actively promote the concept of a government-led race to the Moon really closet socialists (albeit unconscious closet-socialists)?

    If not, as I expect they will claim, when will these Republi-socialists get serious about promoting an approach to space development that puts private enterprise in the driver’s seat?

    - Al

  • Anon

    Good one Al!

    BTW, after Whittington declares that he is not a Republi-socialist, watch what he does. His actions speak louder than his words.

    - Anon

  • Al, we may not need to recreate Apollo for Chinese activities to benefit NASA politically. I believe that China has guaranteed the United States will not altogether quit human spaceflight for the foreseeable future. As recently as the first term of the Clinton Administration that was not true, either in the Administration or Congress.

    Are Republicans . . . really closit socialists? Duh. Who immediately expands the Federal government while cutting taxes the instant they get into office, usually after a Democrat Administration has made some half-hearted attempt to clean up the fiscal mess left by the prior Republican Administration. This has been the theme ever since Reganomics — claim to be against government while funding vast government projects and subsidies that usually benefit the middle class.

    A fiscally conservative Republican? I’ll believe it when I see it . . . but I don’t expect to live so long. And, if you value government funding of space exploration, it’s not something you really want to see. . . .

    – Donald

  • Anon

    Al

    In summary — the Soviets made it a race, but it was the U.S. that declared it was now a race to the Moon.

    So you admit Apollo was only a ace because the U.S. challenged the Russians and they accepted.

    So what is to prevent the U.S. from challenging the Chinese to a new race today for similar reasons, to prevent them for have the first human outpost on the Moon?

    It is already U.S. Polciy to retun and build a lunar outpost by 2020. Why not just up the stakes a bit to show the U.S. is not a “has-been” superpower and expand the field of interest beyond space geeks to rest of Americans?

    If successful it would make it politically impossible for Obama or anyone else to raid the NASA budget for their pet welfare programs. Or are space policy experts too Vulcan to engage in such an emotion-based chest tumping strategy?

  • Al Fansome

    ROBERTSON: A fiscally conservative Republican? I’ll believe it when I see it . . . but I don’t expect to live so long.

    Don,

    Actually, his name is Newt Gingrich. If you recall, Gingrich believed enough in “balancing the budget” and trying to “reduce the growth federal spending” that he took on Bill Clinton. Neither side was willing to give in, and the government was shut down for a short period.

    Turned out that it was very bad politics for Gingrich, but you can’t say that a “fiscally conservative Republican” does not exist. (I agree that Bush 43 is not a fiscal conservative.)

    Also, Senators Gramm and Rudman, of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Balanced Budget Act were Republican fiscal conservatives. (Hollings was too, but he was a Democrat.)

    There is also reason to believe that Senator McCain is true fiscal conservative.

    The problem — on both sides of the aisle — is that fiscal conservatism and “good politics” are not partners in most years. There are legions of special interest groups who will praise you for giving them more money, howl for cutting spending in their area of interest, and few who will do the same for cutting spending.

    It is a system problem, now well known in economics circles. The research in this area has resulted in a few Nobel prizes for economics.

    FWIW,

    - Al

  • Al Fansome

    ANON: So what is to prevent the U.S. from challenging the Chinese to a new race today for similar reasons, to prevent them for have the first human outpost on the Moon?

    Our good sense.

    I can quote you both Marburger and Griffin if you like.

    Next, if we were irrational enough to make this challenge, China would NOT accept. The situation is fundamentally different than the situation between the U.S. and the Soviets in the early 60s. It would be a fictional race.

    1) China has much bigger problems. A “race to the Moon ” would subject their government to lots of criticism about wasteful spending when they have much higher priorities. The Chinese government is quite risk averse in some ways, is worried about revolution, and is are working really hard to placate the growing middle class.

    2) What about the Chinese character and culture makes you think they will participate in a race like this? I see nothing to suggest the Chinese would participate in something so “unsubtle”.

    It is Putin who is bending over backwards, looking for excuses to poke us in the eye, wherever possible on the global stage. Not China.

    The Russian and Chinese character is much different.

    3) China’s national strategy is to partner with us, and to try to build bridges. They are trying to eliminate adversarial challenges, except where they perceive it is really in their national strategic interest. Their national strategy is to focus on activities like “joining the ISS”, “hosting the Olympics”, “most favored nation trading status”, “expanding trade”, etc.

    FWIW,

    - Al

  • Anon

    It is Putin who is bending over backwards, looking for excuses to poke us in the eye, wherever possible on the global stage.

    So perhaps the Russians are up for a rematch. Recoup their honor and all that. Show they are once again a superpower.

    But both choices for a moon race are the only hope you have of saving funding for the VSE, like it for not.

  • Al Fansome

    ANON: So perhaps the Russians are up for a rematch. Recoup their honor and all that. Show they are once again a superpower.

    This is too late, now that NASA has signed a $700 million contract with Russia, and is getting ready to buy even more. Russia’s clear space strategy now is to “sell” goods and services to NASA. You don’t “race” your best customer.

    If your best customer wants to go to the Moon, you say “Good idea, here is how we can help you.”

    The Russians are capitalists, and their spend time figuring out how to sell space goods and services at a profit.

    Meanwhile space advocates here in the U.S., like yourself, spend their time thinking about how they can manufacture a “moon race” so they can prop up government spending for space.

    ANON: But both choices for a moon race are the only hope you have of saving funding for the VSE, like it for not.

    First, you need two willing participants to “have a race”.

    Second, the VSE is a “policy” and a strategic direction, not a program.

    - Al

  • anon

    Then VSE is doomed because without the context of a race there is nothing to prevent Congress and the next administration from straving it for money to fund more important programs.

  • Habitat Hermit

    Well put Al Fansome.

    I bet McMaverick (or possibly even Clingon but not OhdamnA) will fix the ESAS boondoggle just fine (and to the relief of everyone over at NASA who haven’t sold their souls for ESAS). He will be the boss of “the chicken farm” ^_^

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