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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: What do Americans realistically expect?
By Cygni on 7/12/2008 3:54:26 AM , Rating: 5
The reality is that the US is still a decade or more ahead of the nearest active competition (I dont count Russia as seriously active in this sector... currently) in space technology, manned spaceflight, and exploration. Can that gap be closed? Of course it can, but its not going to be closed overnight... and that budget gap is NOT closing. NASA's budget was rougly 17 billion in FY 2006, while Chinas was... 2 billion. Oh by the way, the US Defense Department ALSO spent $25 billion on space projects.

The total US expenditure on NASA, DoD, and space programs in general is higher than the rest of the worlds expenditures COMBINED, and frankly it shows in the sheer volume of scientific, military, and manned missions the US supports each year.

While China certainly may reach the moon before the US, that speaks nothing to the incredible science and military value being supported by the US space departments. If we, like China, shifted all of our funding to our (hopefully abortive, imo) return to the moon, we could beat them by years AND do actual science there as well. Luckily, those at the controls of NASA recognize the value of other more worthwhile science projects.

RE: What do Americans realistically expect?
By chick0n on 7/12/08, Rating: -1
RE: What do Americans realistically expect?
By FITCamaro on 7/12/2008 11:54:21 AM , Rating: 5
*cough*filmed in Arizona*cough*

I've met a few astronauts who would kick your ass over that statement. Including John Glenn.

RE: What do Americans realistically expect?
By PrinceGaz on 7/12/08, Rating: -1
RE: What do Americans realistically expect?
By retrospooty on 7/12/2008 1:00:56 PM , Rating: 3
Come on... That's just crap - we went there in 1969 - the gaff of it all was we spent all that time effort and money and got there only to found out there was nothing of value to see. Hey, its a big dead dusty rock. - WOW.

Still a great accomplishment though

By Sethanus on 7/13/2008 9:46:51 AM , Rating: 2
They did find themselves a viable power source called He3(think non radioactive achievable fusion) in moon rocks, that would be worth returning to to moon for.

He3 is so rare on earth thats its on the order of 4million $ per milalitre, and the surface of the moon is lousy with it.

If i had the resources i would Set up a viable robotic mining and refining site on the moon for He3.

And to hell with oil and its associated problems.

By Brian H on 7/19/2008 1:24:29 AM , Rating: 2
Also, water sealed in tiny glassy globules throughout the soil and in much of the rock. Recent discovery. Unknown if it was part of the original smash-and-clump or the result of subsequent ice asteroid bombardment.

Water permits everything: survival, construction, shielding, fuel.

By P4blo on 7/14/2008 8:55:04 AM , Rating: 2
I was waiting for the pond life to surface. Americans must get so fed up with these people. Or maybe their incredible stupidity is such that you can easily rise above.

Are the Chinese really going to the moon to gather dust? Why doesn't NASA sell them a sample or two for half the price of their 3 stage moon missions? :-)

RE: What do Americans realistically expect?
By 1prophet on 7/12/2008 1:11:33 PM , Rating: 5
We landed and took off from the moon six times not just once, nobody is going to pull a hoax like that and not get caught.

RE: What do Americans realistically expect?
By ultimaone on 7/13/2008 11:06:53 AM , Rating: 2
plus i think the russians went there too....
did the USA and USSA conspire together !!!

i don't think so...that cold war thing and all

By Queequeg on 7/14/2008 2:24:13 AM , Rating: 5
Probably the most irrefutable evidence that we actually landed on the moon are the retroreflectors left at several of the Apollo landing sites. They're an array of "corner" mirrors - three surfaces at 90 degrees to each other. When light hits such a corner, it gets reflect back exactly where it came from. The same principle is used in bike reflectors and the reflective paint used on road signs.

If you aim a powerful laser at one of the landing sites, you will get a faint return from these reflectors. They're used to accurately measure the distance from the earth to the moon.

RE: What do Americans realistically expect?
By SlyNine on 7/12/2008 1:21:16 PM , Rating: 3
Name one bit of proof that the mission was fake, and watch that proof be shot to hell here.

We landed on the moon. Their is NO proof otherwise.

RE: What do Americans realistically expect?
By louzamos on 7/12/2008 2:14:44 PM , Rating: 5
Their is NO proof otherwise.

and if there was proof, wouldn't the Soviets be the first to point it out?

isn't that proof enough?

By bupkus on 7/13/2008 3:54:42 PM , Rating: 4
Next you're gonna say that "Lost in Space" was filmed on a set in Hollywood and that Roby the robot wasn't real, but just a man stuffed into a costume!

By foxtrot9 on 7/17/2008 3:53:44 PM , Rating: 1
You are just dumb

RE: What do Americans realistically expect?
By TSS on 7/12/2008 5:39:54 PM , Rating: 2
i was looking at the ESA site how much their budget is, which is about 4,7 billion USD, and this caught my eye:

"How much does each European spend on ESA?

European per capita investment in space is very little. On average, every citizen of an ESA Member State pays, in taxes for expenditure on space, about the same as the price of a cinema ticket (in USA, investment in civilian space activities is almost four times as much). "

you're not losing the lead in terms of spending money that's for sure. but i wonder how "lead" here is defined. so far best i can come up with is "the grandest feat ever performed" because of the landings on the moon. in terms of technology, i'll bet the USA isn't that far ahead of the other nations. i even remember reading about how the people at NASA where baffled about how simple and cost effective the russian space technology was. the famous 20 million dollar pen vs pencil is the best example there. also don't forget your spending 1 billion per shuttle launch. after the shuttle, the russians will be moving stuff the the ISS and most likely at a fraction of that cost. orion will be cheaper, or so NASA is hoping.

all in all i'd wish there wasn't a space race to begin with, more a cooperation to get to a new planet. sure, china may reach the moon in 2015, the USA might get there around 2025, ESA and JAXA aim around 2020.... how about all of them work together and establish the first lunar colony in 2012? IMO beats taking turns looking at rocks.

By osalcido on 7/13/2008 9:19:58 AM , Rating: 2
There's so much misinformation in this post, it's incredible.

First off, the astronaut pen you speak of was developed by an independent company of NASA (i.e. No Tax dollars wasted). NASA agreed to let the company market the pen as an astronaut pen if they did all the leg work.

Second, yes the Russians are able to reach space at a fraction of the cost but, did you ever wonder why?

Hmm why would something with a payload capacity of 50,000 lbs to high earth orbit cost more than a rocket with a 15,000 lbs payload to low earth orbit?


By Regs on 7/12/2008 6:13:44 PM , Rating: 2
that speaks nothing to the incredible science and military value being supported by the US space departments

Exactly. I thought the whole point in NASA was to investigate, explore, and actually discover. The whole race does not make sense to me if we are not getting anything out of it. Money in = discovery out. Another trip to the moon, in my mind, won't lead us to any more significant discovery than a trip to Mars or other planets in our solar system. Maybe it will lead us to a resource or technology where we could have cheap and clean fuel here at home. Crazier things have happened!

RE: What do Americans realistically expect?
By Ringold on 7/12/2008 8:41:05 PM , Rating: 1
The reality is that the US is still a decade or more ahead of the nearest active competition

I think the one way that view is rational is if one looks only at today and the recent past, rather than incorporating a forward looking view. Perhaps we had technology or abilities ten or more years ago that they're only mastering today, true. However, they will soon have capability that we do will not, and they'll have it in less than ten years. It's not at all clear if the next President will support Ares V development, which would render Orion in to nothing but a cute taxi-cab for the ISS, with none of the capability of space shuttle. Obama has spoke in the past about diverting resources to education spending, and McCain wants a freeze on federal spending.

With their rate of advancement far outpacing our own, if you wait until they're actually setting up lunar bases before saying "Yes, okay, perhaps they have pulled ahead," then our lead may be impossible to regain.

Besides, where are the economic conservatives / political liberals that take every opportunity to bash trade, etc? This is probably one of the few policy options that it might make some sense to take a nationalist view on; for example, requiring the vast majority of all components to be American-made. It wouldn't be as cost effective to do it that way, but it would give legions of engineers experience they wouldn't of otherwise had and companies all kinds of technologies they wouldn't of otherwise stumbled upon or been able to research. And they'd all be right here, in America, ready to give America a competitive advantage. Even if all a sustained manned space exploration (rather than manned low earth orbit exploration) project did was inspire more kids to switch from soft-ball liberal arts majors to engineering degree programs, it would be a huge win for the nation.

As for the science debate, whatever. People talk like a focus on getting men someplace in a rush somehow precludes science instruments going along with them. In case no one noticed, the vast cost and effort is consumed by getting the humans there. Just a little extra coin and all the science equipment you want can come along as well, and with human masters with flexibility and instant control impossible to replicate with robotics.

But go ahead, lets stick to small steps, small programs, and keep boldness to a minimum. We can be like, say, Portugal; an irrelevant country on an irrelevant peninsula, attached to an irrelevant continent, which has contributed nothing to mankind that other parts of the world couldn't have done just as easily for half a century. Well, except for beer.

By Ringold on 7/12/2008 8:46:56 PM , Rating: 3
Not to even mention, it might give America as a country some achievement to be proud of. Even the most staunch Republican must admit we've half-assed virtually everything we've done, and not just the last 8 years but for the last couple decades. In that sense, then, something to be proud of is sorely needed. Yet another fringe benefit.

By niaaa on 7/18/2008 8:46:44 AM , Rating: 2
Portugal discovered America you know...One of the greatest sea nations ever.

And the irrelevant continent is where you come from.

There is a world outside USA....

"I f***ing cannot play Halo 2 multiplayer. I cannot do it." -- Bungie Technical Lead Chris Butcher

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