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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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By Ytsejamer1 on 7/12/2008 10:25:14 AM , Rating: 4
I think most of you are all correct...depending on how you look at it and what type of argument you want to make based on the facts.

For me, the long and short of it is that we are losing ground in the space race in general terms. Yes we've been to the moon...unfortunately the only dozen or so men will soon be gone and that's it. Like in the movie Apollo 13 stated...what if Columbus found the Americas and never returned? I think we're not putting the focus on continuing to grow and reach further out into space. With all the technology we have and could possibly develop if given the proper attention, focus, and energy, we surely could be doing more in space and on the moon than we have.

It's just my opinion that it seems our recent focus has been to take pictures, launch commercial satellites into space so corporations can make their money, and fix foam punctures on an aging spacecraft, and not much else...the Mars rovers are probably the exception and we're certainly getting our money's worth on those two machines.

I think we'll have to do another Apollo type investment if we don't start leveraging the experience and knowledge of the people that did it before. A lot of engineers have probably already died...its not going to be too long before they're all just a page or two in a history book and we'll have to start all over again from scratch.


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