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Not only can the Chinese space program make it to the moon, it will get there before the U.S., according to NASA

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin told a House Committee on Science and Technology that the Chinese are likely to be the next nation to reach the moon, even before the United States.  "If they wanted to mount a lunar mission, they could do so," Griffin said.  The Chinese space program also has around 200,000 employees, while NASA has a workforce numbering close to 75,000.

Assuming NASA continues to receive the amount of funding it is currently getting, the space agency will be able to send astronauts back to the moon in 2019 -- an additional "few billion extra" will allow NASA to reach the moon in 2017.  The Chinese government continues to funnel large amounts of money towards the nation's space endeavors.  

Serious budget cuts and issues with the current NASA lunar program were the main reasons cited by NASA.  Bart Gordon, chairman of the U.S. House science committee, recently said that NASA is headed for a "train wreck" if the space organization cannot get the funding that it needs.  
With the pending retirement of the space shuttle in 2010, NASA also needs to finish the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) on time after the shuttle is retired.  "If the CEV is delayed even further, then we will cede leadership in human space flight at a time when Russia and China have such capabilities and India has announced its intention to develop them," Griffin said.

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By masher2 on 3/18/2007 1:01:59 PM , Rating: 4
> "Getting a moon base means we can go to Mars which means that we can do research on Mars..."

The moon is far more valuable to us than Mars is likely to ever be. A moon base is the first step towards industrial and commercial use of Luna, in an environment which is ideally suited to many industrial processes. Think about it-- you have limitless free vacuum, extremes of heat and cold, a weak gravity to ease large scale construction and movement of large processed masses. At a pole, you have solar power 24 hours a day, unfiltered by any atmosphere. The total lack of geologic or hydrologic activity means any industrial pollution generated stays where it is. On the moon's dark side, you have the ideal spot for radio telescopes, shielded from the earth's radio interference by the moon itself.

The surface itself is rich with many metals and minerals, not to mention He-3, found nowhere on Earth (or Mars, for that matter). And the shallow gravity well and lack of an atmosphere means that refined materials (or finished goods) can cheaply and quickly be returned to Earth.

The problem with Mars is that its too much like Earth...really cold, uninhabitable parts of the Earth. Its atmosphere is too thin to support life...but thick enough to make dust storms and convective heat loss far more of a problem than it would be on Luna. Gravity is twice as strong, solar flux is a small fraction as much, and, without nuclear-powered spacecraft, travel times are a nightmare.

Mars will, of couse, be useful for research purposes. But Luna will quickly become an integral part of Earth's economy, invaluable for commercial, industrial, and (eventually) residential usage. If not by us, then by the Chinese at least.

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov
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