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What’s scarier than the Chinese on the Moon?

One major criticism of NASA’s change in policy is that it would cause the US to fall behind China in human spaceflight, allowing them to land humans on the Moon before the US could return. An example is this AFP article from this past weekend, where one policy expert saw it as “a confirmation of America’s decline” and China’s rise. (Nevermind that, as Dwayne Day pointed out last week, that there’s no hard evidence that China is mounting a program to send humans to the Moon by 2020 or any other date, as they focus instead on orbital spaceflight.)

One person who doesn’t find the idea of a Chinese human mission worrying—although for an unconventional reason—is Norm Augustine, chair of last year’s Review of US Human Space Flight Plans Committee. “I worry less about that,” he said in an after-dinner speech Tuesday night at an event hosted by the MIT Club of Washington. “If the Chinese go to the Moon, it will certainly be a wakeup call, but it will also be, ‘Well, we did that 50 years ago.’”

“My worry,” he continued, “will be that the Chinese will land on an asteroid and scare the hell out of us, as they could do relatively soon if they decide to do it. Maybe if they’re smart they won’t do it, because it probably will wake us up like Sputnik did.”

Why is a Chinese human mission to an asteroid so scary? He indicated that it would be a sign of rapid Chinese progress in human spaceflight, more so than a human mission to the Moon, because this would be the first time anyone had ventured to an asteroid. “It would suggest, I think, that the Chinese are moving far ahead from where they’re currently considered to be in terms of their capabilities. I think that’s not an unlikely event.”

74 comments to What’s scarier than the Chinese on the Moon?

  • [...] 24, 2010 · Leave a Comment From Jeff Foust on the Space Politics blog: One person who doesn’t find the idea of a Chinese human mission [to the Moon] [...]

  • googaw

    Far more important than going to the moon or an asteroid would be for the Chinese to take a cruise in GEO (either manned or unmanned), take pictures of our top-secret satellites there, and post them on the Internet.

  • CharlesTheSpaceGuy

    Interesting that we worry about these “Footprints And Flags” missions, when the real change is taking place w/o us watching. At stake is: who sets standards for the world – for operations/hardware in space? Yes it is the US vs Russian debate continuing.

    Do countries cooperate with the US or will they decide that we are unreliable and look to Russia to set the pace? Sure we have people out there that promise that we will have space hotels, space resorts, whatever – as soon as they prove their rockets and prove their capsules and prove their destinations.

    In the meantime – we have a large ISS that has proven power, data, etc etc etc.

    Do future European and Japanese (and whoever) vehicles use Russian docking adapters, Russian standards, etc?

    This reminds me of the early days of the personal computer era – Microsoft/Intel vs Apple vs IBM vs Tandy vs etc. OS2 was far better than MS DOS and early Windows, who survived? The Mac OS was far better than Windows 3.1, who is dominant now? Where is Amiga – with it’s very promising operating system? Now we chug along with a buggy, virus prone operating system since MicroSoft/Intel had a clear goal and everyone else only had far more elegant hardware/software.

    The Russians are poised to control access to ISS and potentially determine who goes up there, who’s experiments are operated, etc. We may see the Europeans and Japanese preferring to work with Russia, since that means more flight opportunities. First in LEO and then on exploration missions. We may see people exclaim over the elegant US hardware – but not buy it. US boosters may be excellent but satellites will fly on Russian boosters.

    The Russians can be good partners when we have leverage. Will we have leverage?

  • googaw

    The Russians are poised to control access to ISS and potentially determine who goes up there, who’s experiments are operated, etc.

    So what?

  • “The Russians are poised to control access to ISS and potentially determine who goes up there, who’s experiments are operated, etc.

    So what?

    A lot of the reasearch we plan to do regarding inflatable modules, long-duration spaceflight, and other human biological factors in space rely on the ISS. If someone else holds the keys then someone else can put the brakes on our plans or reshape them. Congress and the POTUS constantly changing our direction is bad enough, if we have to support legislation in the Duma to fly science on the ISS, we’ll be in trouble. I know you’re big on the ‘let commercial do it’ approach, but there’s some benefit for commercial folks if NASA studies some of these things now instead of waiting until 2014, which is the earlies BA-330 is set to fly.

    From a cynical (and probably realistic) point of view the argument can definitely be made that we aren’t doing any of that science now and that we won’t in the near future. But I’d like to say I have faith, with the change in direction, that we’ll see some more directly relevant experiments on board.

  • Robert G. Oler

    googaw wrote @ February 24th, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Far more important than going to the moon or an asteroid would be for the Chinese to take a cruise in GEO (either manned or unmanned), take pictures of our top-secret satellites there, and post them on the Internet.

    ..

    yeap as unlikely as it is…that would worry me…. a GEO cruise…

    so far I have seen NOTHING in either Chinese space or military ops that is a “game changer” (BTW the book is excellent although nothing about space). The Reds seems to be doing things which “confirm” a military status not actually get one that has any real value in terms of being aggressive.

    We have subs, they are buying them; we have ICBM’s etc…

    their “space efforts” seem about the same way. Nothing really “out of the box” in factd so far their human spaceflight stuff has not seemed all that impressive. So one tries to figure out if they are not doing it just for show (and that is likely) then what do they have in mind?

    A real game changer in my view would be large very capable platforms in GEO and the first “toss” of that would be the “GEO cruise” that a lot of people have talked about here. So far I see no evidence that they (the Reds) have the rocket power for that…but if they did “that”, that would get my attention.

    Robert G. Oler

  • googaw

    A lot of the reasearch we plan to do regarding inflatable modules, long-duration spaceflight, and other human biological factors in space rely on the ISS.

    AFAIK NASA is not planning on doing any flights lasting longer than 6 months. I’d love to be proven wrong on that. As for inflatable modules, the ISS is not at all necessary to research them, and indeed the research risks being hindered and gold-plated if it is forced to be attached to the ISS.

    I know you’re big on the ‘let commercial do it’ approach, there’s some benefit for commercial folks if NASA studies some of these things now

    No, I’m quite big on NASA researching to help commerce. As long as it’s just research and not gigabridges-to-nowhere. The stuff that needs to be done at ISS is only a miniscule fraction of that research. Worthwhile to do there since we have it and the costs are sunk, but of no strategic importance to either ourselves or the Russians.

    instead of waiting until 2014

    NASA is not going to fly anything like Sundancer or BA-330 before 2014.

    Really, all these attempts to try to recreate the moral panic of Sputnik are silly. Moon, Mars, asteroids, microgravity research — none of these HSF favorites are of any strategic importance. For that matter, HSF itself is of no strategic importance. If it were the DoD would be doing it. Government HSF is like space tourism, it is primarily entertainment, and as you may have noticed, government-funded entertainment is on the chopping block. Pray that your mission is much less visible than Constellation.

  • Bill White

    Government HSF is like space tourism, it is primarily entertainment, and as you may have noticed, government-funded entertainment is on the chopping block.

    And this is precisely why we need to end the NASA monopsony to allow human spaceflight to be paid for with entertainment and advertising dollars.

    For example, my L2 Cup idea:

    http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/leagilewg2008/pdf/4106.pdf

    Let’s race the Chinese and the Russians to EML-2 and back, NASCAR style. No tax dollars needed.

  • Constellation End

    the China’s astronauts lunar landing could happen within 8 years and seen on standard and 3-D TV by over 6,000,000,000 people worldwide [ http://bit.ly/9Wtqzr ] however, the Constellation program is wrong, flawed and TOO expensive [ http://bit.ly/aK4KA0 ] and the new “commercial space” is up to FIVE TIMES more expensive than the Space Shuttle [ http://bit.ly/aP70mi ] as a consequence, NASA and USA will face a deep DECLINE and, soon, will be no longer a space leader http://bit.ly/dpkPas

  • Robert G. Oler

    Constellation End wrote @ February 24th, 2010 at 10:47 am

    and Sarah Palin could start speaking with intelligence as well.

    Robert G. Oler

  • googaw

    Bill, an interesting idea. The market may be something like America’s Cup:

    “Over the four year cycle of the America’s Cup the set up costs for each of the 12 competing teams has averaged US$100m, making it the largest investment by teams in an international sporting competition. With total investment by the teams breaking the unprecedented US$1 billion Mark.”

    http://www.gizmag.com/go/7306/

    Alas we don’t have the very long tradition this sport has built up among the wealthy, but OTOH we do have a nascent tech-billionaire tradition of space tourism and space yachting would be far more novel and interesting for that group than earth yachting. The downside is that for all that money, the individual boats cost only $10 million, which is more than an order of magnitude less than you quote for the Soyuz. So we have our work cut out for us on that score.

  • “US boosters may be excellent but satellites will fly on Russian boosters. ”

    we’re not givi9ng up satellite launching. That’s not even remotely on the chopping block. As for the adaptors, they are already aboard the ISS and the Russians aren’t flying any more adaptors up there. The only new dockable spacecraft going up are Chinese mini-stations and they aren’t planning to offer space to anyone.

    Personally, I’m not really bothered by China. Everyone touts how fast they’ve been moving, but how long has it taken since their manned program was created? Let’s review:

    1967 – first chinese manned program (Project 714)
    1972 – Proj 714 cancelled
    1978 – Proj 714 revived
    1980 – Proj 714 cancelled again
    1986 – Proj 863 created
    1992 – Proj 863 cancelled and recreated as Proj 921
    1999 – Chinese launch first human-capable rocket
    2001 – Animals in orbit
    2003 – Human in orbit
    2005 – spacewalk
    2010 – Docked spacecraft
    2010 – one-module space station

    And compare with:
    1958 – Mercury proj. created
    1959 – animals in space
    1960 – first man-capable rocket
    1961 – manned flight
    1962 – orbital flight
    1962 – Gemini/Apollo created
    1965 – spacewalk
    1966 – orbital docking
    1968 – lunar orbit
    1969 – lunar landing.

    In summary, China has taken 43 years and between two and four complete program shutdowns (depending on how the lines are drawn) to launch less than a dozen taikonauts with one spacewalk. Even if you only count from when 921 started, they took 9 years to get animals in orbit to our 1 year and 11 years to put men in orbit to our 4. By the time China’s latest program finally put a man in space, Armstrong was on the Moon. By the time they launched their first rocket capable of launching a person to space we had 14 manned missions with 19 separate seats (I say seats because several astronauts flew multiple flights).

    I will grant you that we know more about space and are more risk-averse now than we were then, but I still say China’s program is moving at a snail’s pace in comparison. Rough estimate based on the compared timelines I’d say China could do cislunar in about 10 years and landing in 15-20, and that’s if nothing like the last 2-4 program shutdowns happens and no mission failures occur.

    Please forgive my complete lack of concern.

  • “NASA is not going to fly anything like Sundancer or BA-330 before 2014. ”

    No, but useful experiments could be done on ISS before then. I share your cynicism that they WILL be done, but one can hope. The point of that line was that ISS offers in-orbit lab space that won’t exist in the private market until 2014 at the earliest.

  • Bill White

    Yes, but the TV rights to an L2 Cup would be far more valuable than for the America’s Cup, especially if we pit nation versus nation (Russia w/ Soyuz, China w/ Shenzou and U.S w/ a NewSpace vessel such as Dragon).

    Offer the TV rights for the 2nd event as the prize (the America’s Cup winner chooses the next venue) and we create a recursive economic bootstrap – a prize fund that re-fills itself without the need for tax dollars.

    Yes, it is an order of magnitude beyond the America’s Cup but recall that Red Bull already has a billion dollar marketing budget. Maybe NASCAR would be a sponsor as well as a model.

  • richardb

    Robert Oler can’t find “game changers” in Chinese space or military ops?
    Let me list a few.
    1. Asat weapon demonstration 3 years ago by blowing a satellite to pieces.
    2. Building a heavy lift facility at Hainan Island
    3. Supplying Iran with nuclear weapons assistance
    4. Supplying Pakistan with nuclear weapons assistance
    5. Acquiring about 2 trillion US in foreign reserves and about 800 billion is US T-Bills. Probably biggest game changer of them all.
    6. Actively harassing US naval ships in and around Hainan along with attacking a US aircraft, detaining the crew for 12 days. Unprecedented since the 1950′s.
    7. Chinese development of a “carrier busting” ASBM with a radius of over 2000km.
    8. Routine cyber attacks across the entire US grid from commercial operations to USG networks.

    In time, I’m sure there will be more to add and unpleasant to add.

  • googaw

    Nice list richardb, but HSF is utterly irrelevant to stopping Chinese “progress” in these areas. Except that the cost adds to China’s stash of U.S. T-Bills.

  • Robert G. Oler

    richardb wrote @ February 24th, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    you dont understand “game changers” in military ops.

    The ASAT test is an example…there is nothing really “game changing” about that. The US has been toying around with ASAT since the 1950′s..Bold Orion…

    The system the Reds used is entertaining but the US has the real operational asat system as an Aegis Cruiser USS Lake Erie demonstrated…

    building a facility that has no operational rocket right now is not a game changer…the rest of your “notes” similarly falls.

    Perhaps helping you on “game changing”.

    Nuclear Submarines were (on their introduction) game changing.

    try again.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    richardb wrote @ February 24th, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    one additional note.

    you take any combination of weapons from the PRC you want. I’ll take the 7th Fleet. Leave everything else at home.

    you will lose

    Robert G. Oler

  • common sense

    The only competition that I suspect China is in when it comes to HSF is for prestige. Not for prestige in the face of the rest of the world, but prestige for the Chinese governement inside China. They are just trying to show off to their people the power of the current system. I see nothing wrong with that. And even if they were trying to show off to the world so what?

    A lot of scary people apparently need to live in fear t justify their existence here. Boooh be afraid, very afraid! China is going to… space.

  • Chinaman

    @Robert Oler

    I think China will be the economic superpower for many years. That’s how they’ll dominate. Not by use of force. Money gets a lot more done than war these days.
    And their Space program is based on patience. Small steps at a time, building momentum.

  • Vladislaw

    “Do countries cooperate with the US or will they decide that we are unreliable and look to Russia to set the pace?”

    The number one economic activity of humans across the entire planet is tourism.

    While tourism globally has increased 31% since the year 2000, america, as a destination, has dropped almost 10% in the same 10 year period. Federal government spending on promoting america as a destintation has fallen in the last 10 years.

    Senator Byron Dorgan is pressing a bill right now to promote amercia. It appears America does whatever it can to actually make global tourists find another location. That attitude, reflected in our policies the last 10 years, tells you that the planet will move past us and start considering us a non issue in deciding on what they want to do.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Chinaman wrote @ February 24th, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    @Robert Oler

    I think China will be the economic superpower for many years. That’s how they’ll dominate…;

    well a few points on your post and some others.

    First I agree that absent some very unforseen set of circumstances there is very likely not going to be in our future anythingn like WW3…the lesson of “the cold war” is indeed that economics in the end win. You can have a large military but if you cannot sustain the internal economy of the country; particularly in a global environment you cannot survive.

    Indeed the battle of economics is one reason I am very for the new NASA direction. If it is a competition of government run economies then the US will lose. Our history our culture or legacy is not government run economies, it is free enterprise.

    I would argue that unless we have a massive free enterprise injection into human space; then we are doomed to mediocrity. We lead the world in aviation; we have never had a national airline or anything like a “NASA” for aviation (we had a NACA but that is quite different).

    We have to rethink our economy to make free enterprise competitive in todays environment.

    That is why the opposition of supposdly “free enterprise” Republicans baffles me.

    But moving on. All that does not discount the role of “hard power”…and unlike the nuts in the Bush administration how we use hard power is not by might but by smarts…and space and its technologies are part of that.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    If you enjoy good theater…watch NASA select. Constellation is dying…

    the death panels are at work.

    Robert G. Oler

  • CessnaDriver

    The chi-coms believed that China once reigned over the globe for 1000 years, and that they will again. They work towards that goal no matter how long it takes. They know that the nations that lead on the frontier, dictate the course of human history.
    Make no mistake, it is a disturbing concern and it is in free peoples interest to make sure the United States leads on those frontiers.
    Not take a vacation and waste time letting them catch up.

  • common sense

    ” chi-coms ” ??? It seems you have a knack for foreign policy, is this your area of expertise?

  • Robert G. Oler

    CessnaDriver wrote @ February 24th, 2010 at 3:14 pm ..

    I dont agree. Look my time in the PRC was over 10 years ago…(training Chinese pilots including microgravity stuff)…but right now what is consuming the country is trying to make the country work in an industrial world.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    David Vitter is a complete zero.

    he should have stuck with the call girls.

    Robert G. Oler

  • A simple solution:

    Send Norm Augustine over to convince the Chinese that they can not afford to mount a manned mission to the Moon, and that if they did it would be totally inconsequential.

    He can also advise them that they should abandon their Long March boosters, and instead hand all manned missions over to China Thunder Dragon Fireworks Ltd, which can offer greater economies of scale, has more years of experience, and is a sure crowd-pleaser if a mission should ever fail!

  • ForceKin

    Perhaps we’ll see more rapid development of Chinese space capabilities as the PRC acquires know-how off the shelf once the US aerospace industrial complex dissipates…

  • googaw

    Ares is back… but now they are calling it “Rocket X”.

    According to Hoot Gibson and his Senate fans, continuing with the funding and projects and schedules of the program formerly known as “Constellation”, and in particular going ahead with the development and testing of “Rocket X”, is supposed to make progress towards a future HLV that we supposedly need. But we can’t call it Constellation or Ares, since we told our creditors that we canceled those frivolous programs. Sounds to me like a sleazy way of letting the same workers work on the same failed programs while pretending otherwise.

  • Eric

    I find the discussion of the GEO cruise fascinating.

    Regarding the unmanned version: I understand an unmanned GEO cruise would be a leap forward for the Chinese, but is this sort of thing already done, at least by the US and the Russians? I think it isn’t, but it would be interesting to be corrected. I also wonder if a combination of ground-based telescopes (for inspection) and anti-satellite weapons would be easier, and are already feasible. If so, a GEO cruise by the Chinese wouldn’t be so scary after all.

  • googaw

    Eric:
    is this sort of thing already done, at least by the US and the Russians?

    I imagine we have an understanding. Either to not do it, or to keep the results quite secret.

    I wonder, if somebody offered a big X-Prize for an up-close photographic inspection of GEO, how long it would take for the knock on the door from NRO.

  • googaw

    I wrote too quickly:the knock on the door from NRO.

    Actually for GEO the knock is more likely to come from the NSA.

  • “Money gets a lot more done than war these days.”

    This sentiment, expressed a few different ways on here, has been the hallmark of communist China for some time. Yes, they played a role in Korea and Vietnam, but one of the biggest reasons for the Sino-Soviet split in the communist world was the far more ‘slow and steady’ approach of China vs the sabre-rattling and nuke-pointing approach of the soviets.

    And lo, and behold, not a single communist nation survives in Eastern Europe or South and West Asia, but East Asia and Southeast Asia are pock-marked with communist governments.

    China is no pacifist nation by any stretch, but they have a less active imperialist bent to them than their more vocal former compatriots. I’m vehemently against much of what Glenn Beck has to say, but he was right about the revolution vs evolution thing (though not in regards to progressives, who are hardly communist). China is an evolutionary system that will slowly but surely turn over the world culture to fit it’s own. Russia was and occasionally still is a revolutionary system that marched into other nations to make them communist at the end of a gun. Incidentally, we’re dangerously close to a revolutionary federalist republic.

  • common sense

    Okay for those of you that fear China so much.

    Granted their program is run by the military, more or less http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_space_program

    Their budget is anywhere from $500M to $1.3B Okay I’ll even give you $5B just for fun.

    Now I was not able to find the exact figures for our DoD Space activity but I found $13.5B in 1995 and maybe someone can shed some light here.
    http://web.nps.navy.mil/~ssweb/SS3011/week10/wk10_lecture2_files/wk10_lecture2.ppt#284,3,SPACE RESOURCES

    In any case I don’t see our DoD running crazy about the Chinese crewed space program and developing “competing” systems. So why, oh why in heck, should NASA get all worked up about this??? Are you people saying that our DoD is either incompetent or a bunch of white doves?

    Just curious…

  • Send Norm Augustine over to convince the Chinese that they can not afford to mount a manned mission to the Moon, and that if they did it would be totally inconsequential.

    Why bother? They’ll figure it out for themselves, once they’ve wasted enough money on it. Just as the Ming Dynasty did.

  • I would worry much more about a red moon than a red asteroid . The moon contains the resources to develop the gateway to deep space. That would put China in control of the trade gate to the outer solar system.

    What we don’t need are Griffin’s and Augustine’s forming our space policies.
    Thanks to Norm’s FLEX we now have a relic of a space program based on 20th century splash-down capsule technology stuck in LEO and married to the boondoggle ISS until the cows come home. I could get behind new space if they could demo an once of engineering innovation and show they can design and field true 21st century spaceships. Splash down capsules do not cut it!!!!!

  • common sense

    “I would worry much more about a red moon than a red asteroid . The moon contains the resources to develop the gateway to deep space. That would put China in control of the trade gate to the outer solar system. ”

    ???? Trade gate with whom???

    “Splash down capsules do not cut it!!!!!”

    So what does cut it?

  • Major Tom

    “That would put China in control of the trade gate to the outer solar system.”

    How in hell are a couple or a few Chinese astronauts going to “control” a planetary body with a surface area equal to one-quarter the surface area of all of Earth’s landmasses?

    Goofy, goofy, goofy…

    “I could get behind new space if they could demo an once of engineering innovation and show they can design and field true 21st century spaceships. Splash down capsules do not cut it!!!!!”

    You do realize that Sierra Nevada Corporation won the largest of the recent CCDev awards towards development of an HL-20-derived, lifting-body, crew transport vehicle, right? And that Blue Origin won an award towards development of a biconic crew transport vehicle, right?

    C’mon…

  • China not planning on going to the Moon? Well, according to The People’s Daily article, they are serious about going to the Moon.

    As for Augustine’s comment, If the Chinese go to the Moon, it will certainly be a wakeup call, but it will also be, ‘Well, we did that 50 years ago.’.

    It does not matter what you have once done, but what you can do, as a nation that stands out in the world arena.

    If the Chinese land on the Moon while we are still stuck in LEO, or worse we can’t even get ourselves to LEO without Russian Soyuz, what we did 50 years before will be nothing more than the added reminder of what our nation could once do but is no longer capable of doing, proving that, yes, we are a nation in decline.

    BTW, any of you NewSpacies catch Burt Rutan’s letter to Congress blasting plans to cancel Constellation and leave human space flight up to commercial launchers?

  • red

    If you’re worried about China, and you want the NASA side of U.S. government space to do something about it, here’s what you probably should do:

    - Scrap Constellation. It was going to eat up all of you budget that you need to do something productive to counter China.

    - Start a general space technology research, development, and demonstration program that includes technologies that are pertinent to military space, intelligence gathering space, commercial space (comsats, GeoEye/DigitalGlobe type businesses, NewSpace, etc), and civil space. Example technologies might include high bandwith communications technologies like laser communications, microwave/laser power transmission, efficient energy storage systems, formation flying spacecraft, advanced radiation shielding materials, concepts to mitigate impacts of small debris, sensors, non-chemical in-space propulsion, computational materials design, lightweight space structures, low-cost access to space, NEO (or spacecraft?) survey and deflection, highly capable robots, large aperture antennas and telescopes, and so on.

    - Include hundreds of U.S. citizen graduate students in the technology program so we boost the next generation of U.S. workers in military space, commercial space, and other competitive space fields.

    - Cast a wide net with the technology program with SBIRs, STTRs, and prizes. Ensure that U.S. commercial and academic organizations can work with the NASA programs in many different ways so these institutions can become stronger while helping to make NASA stronger at the same time. Make an “Open NASA”.

    - Include small satellite subsystems in the technology program for their relevance to the various fields where we might be competing with China (traditional and new commercial space, military space, intelligence, operationally responsive space in its various aspects, etc). Examples might include miniature remote sensors, proximity operations, long lift power, space-to-space power transmission, formation flying, deployable apertures, and other aspects of small satellite subsystems.

    - Ensure that a flight demonstration program is included for technologies that are ready for demonstration. This would include access to simulated microgravity environments on aircraft, suborbital rockets, and small spacecraft. Use of reusable suborbital rockets would be encouraged because of the dual benefit of testing the technology payloads and encouraging the commercial suborbital rocket field, which is also highly relevant to various arenas of potential competition with China (military, intelligence, commerce, etc).

    - Give NASA Aeronautics a boost with efforts like integrating UAVs in the national airspace to help encourage business in that field that’s relevant to security.

    - Switch the NASA Exploration organization to numerous technology research, development, and technology demonstration efforts, with a few “flagship” demonstrations at the top of a wide “technology food pyramid”. Examples of exploration technology demonstrations that would be relevant to the arenas of potential competition with China (i.e. military, commerce, etc) include in-orbit propellant storage and transfer, in-space propulsion, autonomous rendezvous and docking, radiation shielding, human-robotic systems, high-efficiency space power systems with implications for terrestrial power applications, high-performance materials and structures, and more.

    - Also switch the NASA Exploration organization to numerous robotic HSF precursor missions. This helps NASA HSF, helps promote the rockets that are relevant to competition with China in fields like the military and commerce (i.e. EELVs, Falcons, Taurus, etc), and helps keep our robotic technology base, which is also an area of high-tech competition in various fields, sharp.

    - Also switch the NASA Exploration organization to propulsion technology research and development, such as in-space engines, basic propulsion R&D, and demonstration of an engine comparable to the RD-180 but built in the U.S. and with improved robustness, efficiency, affordability, health monitoring, reduced operations, cost, and operability.

    Increase NASA human research budget so more work in areas like space radiation health issues, improved human-machine interfaces, human factors of long-duration spaceflights (similar to submarines), etc can be done.

    - Encourage U.S. commercial space to deliver services to NASA, and at the same time start new industries that strengthen the U.S. economy and that strengthen the U.S. position in space markets such as the global launch market, one where there may be competition with China. This will also reduce our dependence on the Russian Soyuz compared to Constellation (while not removing the valuable contribution to programs like the ISS partnership that Soyuz is sure to offer), improving our “soft power”.

    - Strengthen the ISS and our international partnerships related to that facility by no longer planning to deorbit it in 2016, ensure the Shuttle finishes the ISS, fully use the U.S. portions of the ISS, and add to the ISS capabilities. Use the ISS in various ways that strengthen our space economy, soft power through exploration and partnerships, and non-space high-tech fields.

    - Increase NASA’s Earth observation budget, since the missions funded by that budget are highly compatible with the areas where we might be in competition with China (i.e. military space, space intelligence, commercial comsats and Earth observers) and they also help solidify the U.S. launch industry. Make a special effort to boost the budget of the new small Venture-class Earth observer missions that can promote various areas of the space industry that are relevant to global competition areas (aircraft remote sensing, suborbital rocket remote sensing, smallsats, small launchers, etc).

    - In planetary science, ensure that there’s a domestic source of plutonium-238 to remove another source of international dependency.

    - In general, make a big switch across the board to launch many more missions of all sorts (more science missions, more ISS cargo missions, ISS crew missions, technology demonstrators, robotic HSF precursors, etc) on relevant U.S. rockets like the EELVs and other existing and near-term U.S. rockets to strengthen them in the international marketplace.

    - Lay the groundwork for affordable exploration missions that may later produce economic benefits like ISRU, beyond-LEO commercial participation, beyond-LEO satellite servicing, and more.

    What? Somebody already though of all that? Oh. Never mind.

  • You do realize that Sierra Nevada Corporation won the largest of the recent CCDev awards towards development of an HL-20-derived, lifting-body, crew transport vehicle, right? And that Blue Origin won an award towards development of a biconic crew transport vehicle, right?

    It was pointed out to him yesterday, but apparently he is a slow learner.

  • Vladislaw

    “A simple solution:

    Send Norm Augustine over to convince the Chinese that they can not afford to mount a manned mission to the Moon, and that if they did it would be totally inconsequential”

    When we did apollo, my commodore 64 had more computing power then the lem. We pushed the limits with apollo and pushed all the tech into the commercial sector. It was the success of the commercial sector and the jobs and wealth it created was the real feat.

    If China landed on the moon, with their current technology it would not have the same effect. Their commercial firms already build and utilize higher tech than their space program uses in some cases.

    The only thing that would scare me is if the Chinese put up a commercial station and commercial human launch.

    Barring a push by Russia or China into the commercial sector, which I highly doubt for China because it is so militarized and No military likes to give up capability and control of the budget, we have nothing to worry about.

    America has the potential to capture the global market in suborbital and orbital commercial human access and destinations.

    I believe, long term, it is more in our interest to capture an early market share of this commercial travel before any other Nation creates that infrastructure.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Doug wrote @ February 24th, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    I would worry much more about a red moon than a red asteroid . The moon contains the resources to develop the gateway to deep space. That would put China in control of the trade gate to the outer solar system. ..

    how exactly would say 16 PRC astronauts on the Moon (and they dont even have the capability to send 1…”put China in control of the trade gate to the outer solar system”?

    you have been smoking “Whittington” or any of the other number of alarmest.

    try not and be goofy

    Robert G. Oler

  • richardb

    The Chinese aren’t the problem. The problem is here in the US. In the 1960′s we could do Mercury, Gemini, Apollo from design to landing on the moon. In the 21st century we can’t build Apollo on steroids. Whether China has the ambition to do what man has dreamed for centuries, landing on other bodies, travelling the solar system, time will tell. They seem ambitious enough, unlike the US.

  • Space-Dev “Dream Chaser” seems to the only commercial company that understands the merit of return to point of origin and quick turn-around. To bad they are over shadowed by Space-X which seems to be the favored poster company for new space. Seems like the fix is in for Space-X they hog the funding and the USA gets a relic based splash down capsule transport system to the ISS for next two decades. As for Blue Origin after all the DC-x hype a truncated capsule is real slap in the face. I’m with Buzz and Burt capsules don’t cut it and new space needs to get some legs under them before they step into NASA’s shoes. To much to fast and no direction or guidance. Space Dev Dream Chaser on ULA Atlas -V with Space-X capsule cargo-only ISS resupply would have made some sense. ULA has the experience to step up to the plate and would bought time for the rest of new space to make the transition. What we have now is KAOS free-for-all with Space-X getting the lion share of the gravy.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/buzz-aldrin/spaceships-worthy-of-the_b_473452.html

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704240004575085810715611660.html?mod=WSJ_latestheadlines

  • In the US, we’d rather squabble about NASA’s tiny $19 billion a year budget than deal with the hundreds of billions of dollars of waste in annual waste in the Medicare and Medicaid system and the hundreds of billions annually wasted on the totally unnecessary war in Iraq.

    Fascist China’s not playing around! They’re not in debt and their economy is rapidly growing. They see America declining from the weight of its own inefficiency and its political paralysis– and so does the rest of the world! NASA’s totally unnecessary retreat from the New Frontier is just the latest symbol of it!

  • Robert G. Oler

    richardb wrote @ February 24th, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    In the 21st century we can’t build Apollo on steroids. ..

    I would make two points.

    first the fact that in this day and age NASA cannot redo “apollo” for a reasonable sum of money is depressing. It shows you how far the organization has fallen.

    second…I am not for sure that we have a need to redo Apollo

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Doug wrote @ February 24th, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    Space-Dev “Dream Chaser” seems to the only commercial company that understands the merit of return to point of origin and quick turn-around. ..

    I am not for sure that their vehicle will be “either”…there is nothing that says a “capsule” that “splashes down” cannot be as fast as a fly back.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Major Tom

    “China not planning on going to the Moon? Well, according to The People’s Daily article, they are serious about going to the Moon.”

    With a robotic soft lander and rover. Circa 2020. Whoop-dee-freaking-doo.

    http://www.thespacereview.com/archive/1565c.pdf

    “As for Augustine’s comment, If the Chinese go to the Moon, it will certainly be a wakeup call, but it will also be, ‘Well, we did that 50 years ago.’.

    It does not matter what you have once done, but what you can do, as a nation that stands out in the world arena.”

    Yes, when it comes to international leadership in the aerospace sector, your wisdom clearly outclasses that of the former CEO of the world’s largest defense contractor and chair of multiple White House blue ribbon civil space reviews.

    [rolls eyes]

    “BTW, any of you NewSpacies catch Burt Rutan’s letter to Congress”

    Why do you repeatedly point to the same amateurish blog, instead of linking directly to the primary sources?

    Lawdy…

  • Major Tom

    “for Blue Origin after all the DC-x hype a truncated capsule is real slap in the face.”

    Blue Origin is still pursuing a two-stage reusable suborbital vehicle. The biconic vehicle is for orbit.

    Read and learn before you post.

    “capsules don’t cut it and new space needs to get some legs under them before they step into NASA’s shoes.”

    So capsules are good enough for government designs, but not for commercial designs servicing government needs?

    Think before you post.

    Cripes…

  • Major Tom

    “Ares is back… but now they are calling it ‘Rocket X’.

    According to Hoot Gibson and his Senate fans, continuing with the funding and projects and schedules of the program formerly known as ‘Constellation’, and in particular going ahead with the development and testing of ‘Rocket X’, is supposed to make progress towards a future HLV that we supposedly need. But we can’t call it Constellation or Ares, since we told our creditors that we canceled those frivolous programs. Sounds to me like a sleazy way of letting the same workers work on the same failed programs while pretending otherwise.”

    Repeating from the prior thread…

    I wouldn’t worry about it. Despite all the sturm and drang at today’s hearing, the draft Senate FY 2011 authorization bill for NASA endorses the Administration’s basic plan: get more than one commercial crew provider operational by 2016, extend ISS to 2020, get an HLV underway ASAP, and develop other, actual exploration capabilities.

    Ares I and Orion are reduced to internal 90-day studies to see if there’s any way they can fit under the new plan — Ares I maybe as a test vehicle and Orion maybe as an industry-proposed option — without undermining the commercial approach. There’s actually stronger language in the bill about Shuttle termination than Ares I/Orion termination.

    See:

    http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/hyperbola/2010/02/senator-hutchinsons-wish-list.html

    FWIW…

  • No the Griffin capsule “Apollo” concept was the first clue that NASA and Griffin were heading VSE down the wrong path. That was the first insight that NASA was about to blow the opportunity that VSE and the death of brave astronauts had just offered them. They screwed the pouch right from the get-go. Including failure to seek and foster a robust focused commercial involvement. ULA had a lot to bring to the table and Griffin turned a blind eye to it all. VSE was doomed to a dead-end spiral from there on. I hate to see new space suffer a similar fate by adopting a stifling splash down capsule based architecture and a random unfocused and uninspiring Flex based plan. The biggest obstacle that looms ahead is the gap. I was there in the seventies and I have seen the devastating impact of a gap. If were going to chuck it all and go back to square one (1956) then lets do right this time. Let’s adopt a lifting body high cross range landing strip architecture for LEO access. The pioneering generation of aerospace engineers passed on a rich data base of lifting body development for the commercial companies to pick-up and run with. The splash down capsule concept was a panic stricken quick and dirty attempt to keep pace with Soviets to win the race. Lets not panic this time let’s get right from the start. The technology is there for those with the insight to utilize it.

  • In a hearing marked by sharp exchanges with the NASA chief, members of the subcommittee vowed to work with other lawmakers to fundamentally redraw NASA’s proposed budget. “I’ve never seen the appropriators and the authorizers” who sit on different congressional committees as unified as they are today about NASA’s future course, Sen. Nelson said.

    Like I’ve said before the Garver Space Plan is DOA in Congress.

  • Robert G. Oler

    John wrote @ February 25th, 2010 at 12:52 am

    lol what a hoot

    Bolden won this round. Robert G. Oler

  • Joseph Steinberg

    Disgusting! Why do smart people continue to resort to fear-mongering to get pork?

  • “If vision without resources is a hallucination, resources without vision is a waste of time and money.”

    Add a stifling splash down capsule based LEO ISS space program with 5-7 year gap, a random undefined FLEX plan, undefined opens the door for things like “Rocket X” to creep into the mix, then put China on moon by 2018 in High Def TV and it could real ugly. Bolden already can’t seem to get the FLEX-UP headed in any direction or even defined for months. Seems we pulled the plug without a plan and now its anything goes.

    Then Space-X poisoned the waters of innovation with Dragon and other companies panic jumping on the capsule band wagon fearing Space-X will get a leg up on ISS crewed funding. We are right back in the same old soup again. So far Space-Dev is the only company not to panic and take the ground with Dream Chaser.

    Elon’s capsule concept seems to reflect similar goofs he made with selection and timing of Tesla limited range tech. GM will blow Tesla away with Volt hybrid/electric tech. Elon had to have big brother bail Tesla motors out. Now he is dragging new space down a similar path.

  • Eric

    Regarding splash-downs: The latest version of Orion uses a water landing, but the proposed commercial Orion-lite uses a mid-air retrieval by aircraft.

    I wonder if Dragon could also use a mid-air recovery.

  • Storm

    I’m sorry for butting in and getting back to the original topic on China’s Moon ambitions.

    I would just like to say that the most important thing the US can do is not to constantly look to China to see where she will go, but for us to concentrate on where we will go. Trying to anticipate China’s behavior in civil space is worthy in some aspects, but for the US to be obsessed with it is counter productive to our own vision, which we should define based on our own aspirations, and not those of another. Our greatest scientific and technological achievements will come from our struggle to explore the heavens, and not from some kind of paper, rock, scissors competition for pride.

    This is not to say that China doesn’t pose risks to our current way of life in the U.S. because it certainly does, but China also poses a risk to itself should it go too far, too quickly in seizing dominance through force, or coercion.

    Here’s the part I love to say. If we just aim for the stars and never look back everything will fall perfectly into place. That I know.

    As for Mark Whittington – poor fellow. He finally seems to come most of the way over to the NewSpace position only to be pounced on as usual. Well Mark I don’t think you’ll have to worry about the speed at which we demonstrate new technologies since the NASA budget projects many will begin demonstration testing by 2014. That is exactly what I was hoping for, so we’ll just have to see how far they slip. OUCH! I hate that word.

  • Marcel Williams: “Fascist China’s not playing around!”

    Okay, please people, read some political theory texts before throwing this stuff around. Fascism is a complete rejection of the fundamental concept of class warfare that underpins communism. Indeed it draws heavily from a heavily class-based society reminiscent of Plato’s republic. As opposed to the Marxist idea of the elimination of classes, the fascist ideal is to enhance and promote the differences of the individual as functional parts of a totalitarian state. It also strictly rejects the idea of the state owning the means of production and takes a strong corporatist stance. Aside from nationalism and a strong state, fascism shares almost nothing in common with communism. Historically, few political ideologies were ever more vehemently set against eachother.

  • Doug: “China not planning on going to the Moon? Well, according to The People’s Daily article, they are serious about going to the Moon.”

    Here’s a quote direct from the article:

    “Fu said China will launch Tiangong 1 space laboratory making a breakthrough in space rendezvous and docking technology; develop the Long March V, large-scale carrier rocket and prepare for launch of space station; launch Chang’e II and Chang’e III satellites and achieve a soft landing of moon’s surface; make use of moon rover to explore the moon and provide data for the for the moon base mission. ”

    In other words aside from still needing to develop every single technology needed to get there including the rocket itself, China is really close to going to the moon.

  • “BTW, any of you NewSpacies catch Burt Rutan’s letter to Congress blasting plans to cancel Constellation and leave human space flight up to commercial launchers?”

    Burt Rutan makes the same rookie mistake so common here in assuming Constellation is somehow different than a commercially-developed vehicle. He makes a statement about constellation being a runway he knows he can make an approach with while commercial he might be able to land. It’s a nice analogy, but there’s no more reason to believe that Ares I would be reliable or even available than there is to believe that Dragon, Dream Chaser, Cygnus, or Blue Origin’s new ship would. I’ll keep repeating this until people get it. Orion was being developed by Lockheed Martin, a company that has never made a manned space vehicle in it’s history or the history of the companies that it annexed. Furthermore, the escape tower was being constructed by none other than Orbital Sciences (who notably intends to reuse it for their own and other manned systems).

    I have all the respect in the world for Rutan, but he shows his ignorance of the process if he really believe NASA was building constellation. He knows engineering and private space, be he hasn’t a clue on government space.

    “I hate to see new space suffer a similar fate by adopting a stifling splash down capsule based architecture and a random unfocused and uninspiring Flex based plan.”

    The Flex design isn’t related to New Space with the exception of including it in the LEO access portion, which is not particularly the flexible part. As for the splash down capsule, if SpaceX hadn’t put Dragon on the table in the face of heavy criticism Dream Chaser would still be entirely unknown. SpaceX is the poster child because when everyone said they’d never launch a satellite, they built a human capable spacecraft. It hasn’t flown yet, for sure, but Dream Chaser would likely have faded into the ether if Musk hadn’t sabre rattled all over the airwaves.

  • Aside from nationalism and a strong state, fascism shares almost nothing in common with communism. Historically, few political ideologies were ever more vehemently set against each other.

    This is getting way off topic, but they’re actually much more alike than they are different. And most of the difference is completely transparent to the user.

  • common sense

    “It does not matter what you have once done, but what you can do, as a nation that stands out in the world arena. ”

    Absolutely and so what did Constellation demonstrate? I mean really demonstrate? That we cannot do it anymore, great! What a proof of super power dominance!

  • common sense

    “Seems like the fix is in for Space-X they hog the funding ”

    Another unreal argument. SpaceX did not win any CCDev while Sierra Nevada did. Moreover, do you have any idea what it will take to make the Dream Chaser work when compared to a capsule? Let me remind you that the “gap” starts next year.

  • common sense

    “Lets not panic this time let’s get right from the start. ”

    Too late! The panic already happened back in 2005.

  • @ aremisasling

    China’s not communist, its fascist. NAZI Germany was not socialist, it was fascist. The ruling oligarchy in China are making themselves into a new ruling aristocracy where most of the wealthy in China come from the politcal ruling class. This has nothing to do with communism.

  • “Moreover, do you have any idea what it will take to make the Dream Chaser work when compared to a capsule? Let me remind you that the “gap” starts next year”.

    This is the panic I was talking about. Like back in sixties panic = knee jerk capsule. The Dream Chaser has a development plan that dates back to the HL-20 and Russian Bor lifting body. Including drop test and actual re-entry test. There are other lifting body designs besides Dream Chaser that have been thoroughly wind tunnel tested by FDL, designs scrubbed and production ready. Many are unaware of the extensive amount of research done on lifting bodies back in late 60′s and 70′s. Having known the late Dale Reed and absorbed some of his knowledge and insights along with other lifting body old timers I can assure you the learning curve is not as steep as many imagine. Much of the work is already done and waiting including drop test and TPS. If the money is available many of these designs could be fast tracked to flight ready vehicles in a very short time span.

    I could get a lifting body up and flying including the launch system in three to four years if the money was made available today. You just need to know the right people and companies to make it happen.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1la44B5odeg

  • common sense

    “Much of the work is already done and waiting including drop test and TPS. ”

    Not true, not really anyway. There is a lot of work still required to ensure these lifting bodies work. In particular for the TPS and the so called runway landing. Most of them would land at speeds that no tire can sustain, today anyway. There are several issues with stability at low speed. Hence most require the use of “wings”. I believe the X-33 originally did not have any wings (can’t find any pic though). Wings are a problem since they create additional mass that has no use in space not to mention leading edge heating. However one might argue that parachutes have mass too and there is a trade space here. But wings may require a landing gear. Also a “winged” lifting body on a LV will induce a lot of non symmetrical loads and these are not trivial. The TPS is exposed in most cases like for Dream Chaser. Etc. I will argue that X-38 is the closest we ever came BUT it suffered from some aero heating issues if I remember correctly, if nothing else. Also remember the darn thing landed under a parafoil… So many concepts so little cash and time.

    No one on CEV wanted to hear anything about lifting bodies after Griffin came onboard, take it for what it is…

    On a side note. You’re lucky you knew Dale Reed. Another time another era and he faced a lot of challenges with his ideas… But people were willing to take (some) risks back then:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=iBgJP3jQKcgC&dq=Dale+reed+lifting+body&printsec=frontcover&source=bn&hl=en&ei=qBCHS83INY3ctgO0253hBw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CAwQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=&f=false

  • The problems you mention were mostly solved by the time of the X24-B. came about. The old timers found the solutions including the Russians. There is a design that goes well beyond Space Dev Dream Chaser. I have not been granted permission to speak of it in detail. It is well developed and currently rest with one of the new space companies. It is fully reusable, and capable of sub-orbital , point to point to orbital. Why it has not seen the light I’m not sure but I think it may soon. It would be a game changer in cost and performance.

  • common sense

    “There is a design that goes well beyond Space Dev Dream Chaser.”

    I am sure there is and an example might be the Russian Klipper. I wish there’d be more stuff out there. But I don’t think that the capsule vs. lifting-body argument holds water. A capsule is what you do when you want to fly something quickly, not a lifting body. Most problems were solved by adding “wings” to the lifting bodies for stability. As for the TPS it depends wher you’re coming back from…

  • The Chinese, if they are smart & pragmatic, WOULD DO a lunar mission! Why the hell should they COPY US and chain themselves to LEO with another dull & boring space-station?! Enough of this damned going around in circles!! GO SOMEPLACE! Only the staunchest of the Mars fanatics will say “so what.” Once the full implications of this Chinese feat sink through, America will feel the sting of being incapacitated, and left at the starting gate! Imagine, if their spacemen visit one of the Apollo landing sites! Our relics of past glory will be televised by the Commies. Even if its through the lens of a long-distance moving rover, sent over from a landing module. And consider the sight of the Red Flag planted firmly on Luna firma….maybe coupled with a taikonaut with the Earth in the deep black sky! What will the Mars zealots have to say for themselves then?? On what angles will they choose to trivialize it?? Uglier still, will be how they will justify their support for getting President Obama to destroy our would-have-been Lunar program, ten or twelve years previously (by that time.). Charles Bolden is a total jackass, to go in front of Congress and tell them a Chinese Lunar Landing would not matter. People, let’s rescue Constellation right now! Like that song says….”I swear it’s not too late.”

  • [...] Foust’s recent post, “What’s scarier than the Chinese on the Moon?,” continues the discussion of NASA’s recent change of direction: One major criticism of [...]

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