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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 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?


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