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The U.S. used to only compete with Russia, but now has multiple other nations to deal with

The U.S. is losing ground to competing space agencies as Europe, China, Russia and Japan continue to make progress in their space programs.  Even though the U.S. still has the most military satellites monitoring Earth, both commercial and civilian space initiatives are severely lacking when compared to its international counterparts.

There are several contributing factors into the decline of the U.S. space agency, though immediate fixes are not evident.  Even though NASA has a long string of success, the unfortunate shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003, budget issues, and the looming 2010 retirement of the current generation of space shuttles are all complicating matters.

"We spent many tens of billions of dollars during the Apollo era to purchase a commanding lead in space over all nations on Earth," NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said.  "We've been living off the fruit of that purchase for 40 years and have not ... chosen to invest at a level that would preserve that commanding lead."

Although Russia has been a long-time competitor to NASA, the Chinese space agency and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have continued to make steady progress with its intended goals.

Along with multiple missions to Mars, China is preparing for stage two of a three-part mission to the moon.  The first step in the plan, which is ongoing, included sending a satellite to orbit the moon.  The second step proposes launching a lunar lander before 2010, and the third step involves collecting soil samples from the moon in the next 12 years.

The Chinese space program also has its first spacewalk scheduled for October. Griffin admits China will likely beat the U.S. and other nations back to the moon.

India also has a developing space program that may not have the type of budget of larger space programs, but the country still has had success launching smaller missions that have shown good results.  Its most recent success was a satellite launch in which 10 satellites launched into orbit aboard one rocket.

The U.S. space agency does have its own mission outline for the next 12 years, but may struggle to meet its goals if the Orion crew vehicle is not completed on time in 2015.

NASA used to be responsible for sending other nations' satellites into orbit, but now Russia, India, and China are the three main nations responsible for helping Israel, Brazil, Singapore and the ESA launch satellites into space.



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RE: Huh?
By ViroMan on 7/12/2008 3:27:37 AM , Rating: 2
While all that you say is true... you forget that we still beat the Russians to the moon. THAT was our first goal, all the other things were mere mile stones that the Russians had beat us to. Sure we really wanted to have beaten them to those mile stones as well but in the end we still won.

Think of it as literally a race. They get off the starting line first... make it around the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd turns first. Then they get run over as we poured in the speed at the last bit of the way. Do we still say they should get the award, no but, they get recognized in some way as in 2nd place Silver.

I also totally agree that we have a strangle hold on NASAs neck. Stuff costs more to make and test today what with inflation and not to mention we are A LOT more safety oriented then we were back then. Developing new stuff to use takes 3-4 times longer with NASA then any other industrial skunk works or even the military. Things have to be tested under as many conditions as can be thought of and there has to be 3 kinds of redundancy's and a final redundancy encase the redundancy's fail.


RE: Huh?
By TMV192 on 7/12/2008 4:00:54 AM , Rating: 3
Again I don't see when the Moon became the only goal. Von Braun for example started writing about manned Mars missions in the early 50s soon after moving to the US. No one said back then we'll make it to the Moon and be done with. Its just that a lot of people suggest that the first Space Race was over either when the Apollo-Soyuz mission took place or the Soviet Union couldn't keep up funds to complete with NASA and Russia alone later take over. In either case the Moon landings were significant to bring the US to the lead but by no means is space exploration over, and thus the deteriorating lead the article talks about. In your literal race you can think of the Moon as a lap with many more to come


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