Monday, June 18, 2007

Red Moon

China announced today a new heavy lift launch vehicle capable of lifting a space station or propelling astronauts to the moon. The target launch date is 2011. China's space program garners a lot of attention. Each announcement seems to convey a country that just isn't satisifed with getting a man into Earth orbit, but a country that is on a course similar to the United States in the early sixties. China is on a fast track, seemingly achieving one space success after another. Their budget is lower than NASA's yet they appear to be on a calculated path to reach the moon and beyond at or before the United States. This is a different era though and the Chinese space program has the advantage of leveraging the work of both the American and Russian programs that accomplished so much in an era where ingenuity and resourcefulness were required. The Chinese has been able to take shortcuts to getting into space. First, they've leverged the Russian knowledge and hardware. Second, they have had open access to the wealth of public information that the American program makes available. Lastly, the Chinese program is more narrowly focused. The American program is ambitious - the world is learning about the solar system from missions like Cassini, Mars Rovers, ISS, Pluto-Kuiper Express, Messenger, Dawn, Hubble, SOHO, NEAR, Deep Impact and many others. The U.S. Program is criticized for it's expense, but compared to the Chinese program the American program is leading the planet on exploring other worlds. The Chinese programs is focused on getting to the moon, the American program is focused on getting back to the moon, but also in exploring the rest of the universe and continued research on aeronautics and earth sciences. Our program accomplishes so much with limited resources. The budget needs to be increased significantly to further our continued exploration. Space isn't a luxury that some think we can't afford, but a necessity that we must afford to secure our nation's technological preeminence and to take what is considered the next Saudia Arabia - the Moon. The moon is thought to hold enough Helium 3 to power the Earth for a 1000 years. With China's growing energy demands, securing an endless supply of clean fuel would be priceless. If we don't act, don't get back to the moon first, we will indeed gaze at the night sky and see a red moon.

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