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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 DeepBlue1975 on 7/12/2008 3:17:03 PM , Rating: 1
I mean, come on, it's too early an stage on both available technological facilities and the universe is just too damn big to be fighting for space territory to settle in.

So, if there's nothing to win but knowledge and experience waiting out there to be found by those who dare... Why not make a cooperative effort between nations?

Simple: a common world founding for space exploration and research making it a joint effort would make the humanity as a whole advance faster in these matters, than each and every nation trying to do it by its own.

The benefits of space exploration, the things that can be learned are far too many to go the selfish route, and maybe as a plus could help some friction between nations to decrease.

The country that puts more money on the common funds has the highest rank when voting for decisions and that's it.

I seriously think that medical science and space exploration could advance so much faster with joint efforts, that I don't see the point on governments full of more than grown up adults engaging in childish competitions to show who has the bigger dick.

The pursuing of knowledge about our universe and its origins should be "open source", as no harm can be done from it and our intellectual resources could grow so much faster.

By Ringold on 7/12/2008 9:01:39 PM , Rating: 2
So, if there's nothing to win but knowledge and experience

There is vast commercial potential that could be tapped. Otherwise, you may have a point, if not for the fact that not everyone around the world is ready to pool sovereignty; that means there are defense implications as well.

The pursuing of knowledge about our universe and its origins should be "open source",

I don't believe anyone suggests keeping scientific data to themselves.

By DeepBlue1975 on 7/13/2008 6:01:25 PM , Rating: 2
I know about commercial issues, but if cooperation could make spaceships 3x faster in 1/10th of the time (just to say something) because joining economical resources and scientific investigation would allow faster and stronger results, I still think it'd be worth it.

I really thing the combined budget of all interested parties could boost research and results, and of course, the country putting more money, will have the highest level of control over everything done in such a project.

Just a thought, I don't think it could happen anytime soon (though maybe in a few hundred years or less it might be possible, who knows?) but I'd really like seeing something like that happen, just in the name of science and coming to a better knowledge of our universe.

By dklayn on 7/14/2008 2:07:39 PM , Rating: 2
So, if there's nothing to win but knowledge and experience waiting out there to be found by those who dare... Why not make a cooperative effort between nations?

Knowledge and experience are only one aspect of space exploration and are already areas with a large international cooperative effort.

The other aspect is space territory and resources. And, no, the universe is not "just too damn big" to make it worthless fighting over such. Unfortunately, the universe is so big that most territory is outside the range in which humans can usefully reach. The limited amount of near Earth territory (such as the Moon) is very important.

What the US should be focusing on is getting back to the Moon before any other nation and establishing a permanent lunar base/habitation. This would allow the US to claim sovereignty over the Moon rather than let it become an international terrority like Antarctica did under the Antarctic Treaty. There is simply too much commercial, military, and nationalistic benefits to establishing sovereignty over the Moon and all of its resources to let such an opportunity slip by.

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