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China's recent successful manned mission has started a space race debate

Now that China has successfully completed its first manned mission, the United States is worried that it may be left behind when it comes to space-related endeavors.

China initially launched its Tiangong 1 prototype space station module in September 2011 and linked its Shenzhou 8 spacecraft to it in November. Earlier this month, China completed its first manned mission to Tiangong 1 using its Shenzhou 9 spacecraft, which contained the country's first female astronaut.

With so many firsts under China's belt, the U.S. is getting a little worried. Some scientists, such as lunar geologist Paul Spudis say that China could renounce the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which states that no one can claim national sovereignty in space. Spudis believes that potential resources on the moon, such as water, could tempt the country into renouncing the treaty.

There are also worries about the U.S. government's space program. While the U.S. has the private sector (SpaceX) taking care of space-related business for now, there are concerns regarding the private sector's ability to uphold the American space effort without the government's support. The U.S.' funding for the space program has been quite low, even to the point where NASA urged Congress to provide the full $850 million for commercial crew vehicle development last October.

However, the private sector has made strong contributions so far with SpaceX's Dragon cargo capsule making its first successful trip to the International Space Station (ISS) last month.

Others aren't quite as worried about China's position in the space race. According to Jeff Foust, an aerospace analyst, journalist and publisher, China's space program could potentially face some issues with coordination because it is ran by many different government agencies instead of just one.

Regardless, China is now a member of the space race and the U.S. may be taking the new potential competitor into consideration.

Source: Yahoo News

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RE: Crackpot scientist...
By wordsworm on 6/20/2012 8:35:50 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I was thinking about that myself. Maybe they plan on 'mining' the water and bringing it back to earth. Then they can sell it on the open market as 'moon water.'

Whoever can take over the moon will be the one that does it. Treaties are only there to keep enemy states in check.

RE: Crackpot scientist...
By Reclaimer77 on 6/20/2012 8:37:15 PM , Rating: 2
You know there's enough hydrogen in that Moon water to power rockets for decades, right?

Not saying it's going to happen. But there's significant value sitting on the Moon for those brave enough to do it.

RE: Crackpot scientist...
By Ringold on 6/20/2012 11:07:26 PM , Rating: 2
Some companies are starting to disagree with you guys about the time frame for exploiting the moon.

Bigelow Aero too has plans, pending affordable launch technologies, to assemble a station at a Lagrange point and lower it to the lunar surface, and bury it under a little regolith for radiation shielding. His idea wasn't to mine or anything, but rather lab space for rent and, primarily, the first off-world hotel.

What's that quote about something happening 50 years after people stop laughing? I think 2012 was the year people stopped laughing at commercial space flight. Mining the moon by 2062 then? Sounds reasonable to me.

As for that treaty, yeah, it's BS. America might uphold it because environmentalists feel like we shouldn't extend our capitalist blight one millimeter past our own atmosphere (and deep down, humanity is a blight on the universe, best contained and stamped out here), but as soon as someone figures out how to make a buck from the moon it'll get trashed. Same deal with the Antartic treaty; make it cost effective to drill for oil there, and someone will go do it. For now it's just too cold and hostile.

RE: Crackpot scientist...
By JediJeb on 6/21/2012 3:52:00 PM , Rating: 2
They are also looking into using those inflatable space station units to link together and make a deep space vehicle by placing them together with something like the Falcon rocket motor. They really do have some interesting ideas and it is amazing how even though they have actually placed test modules into orbit you never hear about them that much.

RE: Crackpot scientist...
By Solandri on 6/21/2012 8:18:59 AM , Rating: 2
You know there's enough hydrogen in that Moon water to power rockets for decades, right?

Just to explain this, the vast majority of the energy used to get into space is spent escaping the Earth's gravity. Depending on which rockets you use, the cost ranges from about $500-$1000 per kg, to over $10,000 per kg of payload you put into low earth orbit. In contrast, getting from LEO to the moon requires only a fraction of the energy.

The moon's gravity is substantially easier to escape (how the lunar landers were able to take off into orbit with a small rocket strapped underneath).

If you're planning, say, a trip to Mars, that's going to require a lot of fuel. You could lift that fuel from Earth at a cost of several thousand dollars per kilo. Or, the theory goes, you build the spacecraft and load it with just enough fuel from Earth to get it to the moon. On the moon, you set up mining facilities to harvest water. You use solar panels to electrically break up water into hydrogen and oxygen. That's your rocket fuel. You then launch it from the moon and load it up into your spaceship.

The idea is that even though mining water on the moon and converting it to hydrogen and oxygen will be damn expensive, it'll still be cheaper than launching fuel from Earth.

RE: Crackpot scientist...
By JediJeb on 6/21/2012 3:47:51 PM , Rating: 2
Better yet, if you can find enough nuclear fuel on the moon then you can refine it there to fuel nuclear rockets. There wouldn't be so many complaints because there would be no threat to our planet from an accident and maybe then we could move into a more promising technology for propulsion.

Even in a nearly 50 year old science fiction book "Rip Foster rides the Grey Planet" they discuss using a Thorium based rocket that uses Zinc I believe as the reaction mass. I am sure we have better ideas now that should be explored and maybe a moon base will be what opens up the opportunities for us to really take off in space exploration.

RE: Crackpot scientist...
By wordsworm on 6/21/2012 9:26:11 PM , Rating: 2
The atmosphere is also a huge obstacle. The moon does not have this obstacle. I believe it would be relatively simple to make a maglev launcher to send payloads to earth.

Harnessing energy on the moon ought to be a lot easier than it is on earth as well. Imagine a drum spinning round where half of it is exposed to the sun and its powerful undiluted energy and the other half exposed to the incredible cold. The hot/cold would create a lot of energy through the expansion/contraction of the liquid/vapour.

In any case, I don't think there's enough water on the moon to make that sort of usage feasible. Once it's used up, then what? With a maglev launcher, you'd just be using electricity and momentum to return payloads to earth. But, all that is just wishful thinking at this point.

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