Campaign '08

CNN on space policy: the Chinese are coming!

In case you missed it, on Saturday CNN aired a brief report on space and the lack of attention it was getting on the campaign trail in this presidential election. While you’re unlikely to learn much new about the topic from the report if you’ve been reading this and other resources on the topic in recent months, the report was disappointing in another way: it focused almost entirely on building up a space race between China and the US. Among the claims made by the CNN piece: “Chinese scientists talk about mining the lunar surface for possible nuclear energy resources that are plentiful there but rare on Earth.” That’s a reference, of course, to helium-3, and such mining might indeed be useful—in that day in the far future when we actually have operational helium-3 fusion reactors.

“But there is genuine and growing fear among some scientists that if space does not become a higher priority, the Chinese program will be on par with America’s by the end of the next president’s second term,” the piece concludes. It’s not clear that CNN talked to any scientists in the article—the only experts quoted are Robert Zubrin and a military analyst—and some scientists might have very different opinions about current space policy depending on, for example, the status of their budgets. There’s no discussion in the piece about concrete, near-term issues like the impending retirement of the shuttle and the gap between it and Constellation, something that the next president will have to immediately grapple with.

It does raise an interesting question, though: should US space policy, and the candidates’ positions on the issue, be judged against the “threat” (real or perceived) of China or other nations, or should it be judged against whatever national goals we have for it, regardless of what other countries are doing?

21 comments to CNN on space policy: the Chinese are coming!

  • MarkWhittington

    Space policy cannot to conducted in a vacuum (ok, in one sense it can.) The activities of other countries, especially those of a potential enemy such as China, cannot be ignored, despite what some people might wish. That fact must therefore influence the shape of space policy.

  • Helium3 has other uses, like filling up balloons! At the current rate of consumption the earth will be depleted of naturally occuring, easy to collect Helium. China will be the one laughing when your children are crying because their balloons aren’t floating!

    I am currenlty working on a research paper on the politics on the Chinese space program, and showing how they’ve used what I’ve termed ‘space nationalism’ to fuel both nationalism and the space program. It is incredibly interesting topic.

    I would like to hazard a guess and say, that from a New Zealand perspective, I am more worried about what the USA will do in space than I am about what China will do in space. Like China the US and NASA should be concentrating on the peaceful use of space, signing treaties like the one that Russia and China recently made, and working together, rather than excluding them (from the ISS, and other joint ventures.)

  • Big deal – we already spend almost $50 BILLION a year on space. There is no close second to America on that front. Lest you forget that DoD Space is almost 2x NASA’s budget.

    What’re the Chinese going to do if they get to the moon? Sell our Tranquility Base mementos on EBay?

  • *At the current rate of consumption the earth will be depleted of naturally occuring, easy to collect Helium in 8-9 years.

  • *depleted of Helium in 8-9 years.

  • Yeah… spending has nothing to do with it Shrubber. Most the the CNSA funding comes direct from the Peoples’ Liberation Army, which is classified as a state secret, so we don’t know exactly how much they’re spending. Also, in China stuff costs less. Scientists, rockets, labour, food. Which means at every turn they can under cut NASA and the USA. Hence why some american companies are choosing to lift their satellites into orbit on Long March Rockets.

    If the Chinese do get to the moon they could do many other things, like build a base there, mine it, all the things that NASA/USA want to do, but they’ll probably do it better and cheaper.

  • Bill White

    Jackson Wood

    I am currently working on a research paper on the politics on the Chinese space program, and showing how they’ve used what I’ve termed ’space nationalism’ to fuel both nationalism and the space program. It is incredibly interesting topic.

    I would be very interested in reading that paper.

    Maybe a Space Review submission, if Jeff also were interested?

  • Charles in Houston

    More shrill fear mongering from CNN, they used to be a news channel but have devolved into a Fox “News” wannabe.

    They report to cause worry more than to convey information.

    The last real reporter they had, Aaron Brown, is supposed to come out with a new series on PBS soon.

  • Winston Churchill

    The Naz1fication of the United States media and press is complete.

    The only way Americans can get news now, is via the internet, from overseas.

  • Shubber Ali: What’re the Chinese going to do if they get to the moon? Sell our Tranquility Base mementos on EBay?

    In all seriousness, I hope so, if it establishes a successful commercial business that can pay for some small part of a return to the moon.

    Jackson Wood: I, too, would like to read this paper.

    – Donald

  • Vladislaw

    I fear china in the near term too! The USA only has about 10,000 man days in space, china already has 10 days. The USA has only launched a few hundred astronauts, china has already launched 3. We only went to the moon a half dozen times. China is already suggesting they might go in 20 years. I mean come on, the list goes on and on. China is NOT standing still! They are using the ENTIRE FULL FORCE of a total command economy ( with a few free enterprise zones) to overtake us in space, this is MORE THAN just a race. They are steam rolling over us in space and we better wake up to it.

  • JM

    Helium3 has other uses, like filling up balloons! At the current rate of consumption the earth will be depleted of naturally occuring, easy to collect Helium. China will be the one laughing when your children are crying because their balloons aren’t floating!

    Helium-3 could be key to a resurgence in Derigibles and lighter-than-air transportation. He-3 is 25% lighter than standard Helium, and is non-flammable to boot. And I’ve also heard that the Chinese are thinking of cornering the market on this technology, so we better get cracking!

  • Charles in Houston

    Vladislaw wrote: I fear china in the near term too! The USA only has about 10,000 man days in space, china already has 10 days. The USA has only launched a few hundred astronauts, china has already launched 3. We only went to the moon a half dozen times. China is already suggesting they might go in 20 years.

    If we listened to this wailing, we would go right to sleep! It sounds like we are light years ahead of the Chinese and they are way back there. They suggest they might go to the moon in TWENTY years? Assuming nothing changes in 20 years of course.

    If you call that steam rolling over us…

    Really, hopefully we will be smart enough to not be scared so easily. Aren’t we educated enough to see the world as it is and do what is right for our own goals – and not be so easily spooked?

    It disappoints me that we could spend any time on such fluff as the CNN report – we should chuckle about their lack of knowledge and move on.

  • Terrence Postman

    “Hence why some american companies are choosing to lift their satellites into orbit on Long March Rockets.”

    Name them.

    You might want to do some research before writing your paper.

    “I would like to hazard a guess and say, that from a New Zealand perspective, I am more worried about what the USA will do in space than I am about what China will do in space.”

    New Zealand’s a little concerned about what the United States might do? Aren’t the two countries allies or something?

  • Habitat Hermit

    Can everybody please start using sarcasm tags? If nothing else as an act of kindness to people like those working at CNN.

    “China will be the one laughing when your children are crying because their balloons aren’t floating!”

    Pure genius ^_^

  • Vladislaw

    “If we listened to this wailing, we would go right to sleep”

    You mean we aren’t sleeping already?

  • Vladislaw

    “signing treaties like the one that Russia and China recently made, and working together”

    Do you mean work together like the USA and USSR did when they joined capsules? Or do you mean work together like the USA and the USSR did with the U.S. Shuttle and Mir programs? Or do you mean work together like the USA and Russia did with the International Space Station. How should the USA and Russia work together CLOSER then the russians and chinese?

  • If the Chinese do get to the moon they could do many other things, like build a base there, mine it, all the things that NASA/USA want to do, but they’ll probably do it better and cheaper.

    Ahh, another kool-aid drinker has watched one too many popular-mechanics inspired television shows and believed it.

  • Al Fansome

    VLADISLAW: Do you mean work together like the USA and USSR did when they joined capsules? Or do you mean work together like the USA and the USSR did with the U.S. Shuttle and Mir programs? Or do you mean work together like the USA and Russia did with the International Space Station. How should the USA and Russia work together CLOSER then the russians and chinese?

    Or do you mean, like the $700 million contract that NASA recently gave to Russia, and its stated intention to give another contract to Russia for Soyuz crew transport/rescue services?

    Or do you mean, like the joint partnership between Boeing and RSC Energia that is called “Sea Launch”, which uses the Zenit and the Block-D upperstage?

    Or do you mean, like the former joint partnership between Lockheed and Krunichev called International Launch Services, for selling Proton launch services to the West?

    Or do you mean, like the use of RD-180 engines in the Atlas V?

    Or do you mean, like the use of the NK-33/34 engines in the Taurus II?

    Or do you mean, like the partnership between Space Adventures and RSC Energia to sell commercial trips to the ISS?

    - Al

  • Vladislaw

    “Helium3 has other uses, like filling up balloons! At the current rate of consumption the earth will be depleted of naturally occuring, easy to collect Helium. China will be the one laughing when your children are crying because their balloons aren’t floating!”

    California is currently moving to BAN helium filled balloons because once released they get tangled in power lines causing power distruptions. About 150 incidents have been reported. So it the kids have to go without balloons that get tangled powerlines, I guess they will just have to cry a little bit and get over it.

  • Stuck on Debt & Iraq

    Can Americans go to the moon, like right now???

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