the new ("commercial")
Everybody knows and can see the China's ambitions in every field, since, it's clear, how the asian Red Dragon, wants to be the Number One in almost everything exists... all technologies, the worldwide commerce, industry, sciences, politics, military power... and, of course, the space exploration!
And, there is no doubt that China has all the opportunities needed to compete and to have good chances to really become the Number One in all these fields mainly thanks to its fast growing economy and a population larger than North America, Europe, Russia and Japan together, and second only respect India!
When China has decided to play a major role also in the space industry and exploration (launching its rockets, manned capsules, space probes and, soon, lunar rovers) it hasn't limited its goal to a few, simple, missions in Earth orbit (where it has had a big success becoming the third country, after USA and Russia, to launch its own astronauts with its own vehicles) but, clearly, it wants to do the same missions accomplished by USA (the manned lunar landing) and MUCH MORE (like build a lunar outpost and, someday, start a manned mission to Mars) since China wants to be BIGGER and BETTER than ALL OTHER countries of the past and present, then, be the country that WINS the new Moon-race!
Of course, the "new Moon-race" will be not (or not only) a "cold war's military-race" like was the Apollo program in '60s, since, there is not, now (or, not at the same level of '60s) a challenge between two nuclear-power countries, for the domain of the world (like was, over 40 years ago, between USA and the Soviet Union) but will be (much more) a "commercial Moon-race" whose new goal, is to demonstrate (and SHOW to the entire planet!) WHICH country IS today's commercial, scientific and technological superpower!
Another good reason why China could want to win this new space-race, is that it wants to demonstrate to be the absolute leader also in the space-related technology and industry that already is a rich market and will likely become a much more richer market in the near future!
I've already posted this opinion (about the China's rush to Space and on the Moon) three years ago, on several space/science forums and blogs (and, also, explained in detail, two years ago in this ghostNASA article) receiving only some annoyed replies from very few readers, but, later, in three official speeches, the former NASA administrator, Mike Griffin, has expressed my same concerns regarding a, very probable, sensational overtaking of China in the new race to the Moon!
That chilling scenario (mainly for NASA/USA's pride) has become much more probable (if not 100% sure!) after the giant waste of time (over 3 years lost, so far) and money (over $9 billion already burned) came from the very bad, wrong and expensive, decision made by the former NASA administrators, like the (useless and expensive) 5-segments SRB, the (useless and very slow to develop) J-2X, the waste of money of COTS and CRS programs (that, if they will succeed, will carry very small amounts of cargo to the ISS at a price-per-ton three-five times higher than, the already very expensive Space Shuttle!) the very very risky ($1.7 billion) Hubble SM4 (successful accomplished by the VERY LUCKY Atlantis crew!) the Ares 1-X test, the too big Orion capsule and (last) the NASA budget-cut due to the economy crisis!
In fact, the worst predictions of the HSF Committee say that NASA could launch again a manned capsule around 2017-2019 and will be able to land again a crew on the Moon in 2028 or later... when China (and, maybe, Russia, India, Japan, Korea, etc.) will already have built some big cities on the Moon from more than a decade!!! ... :)
Well, I feel, that, NASA and US' politics, haven't realized yet HOW MUCH DEVASTATING the surpass of China, in the new space-race and in the new/next manned Moon landing, will be (for the american pride, politics and space-business) when this scenario will really happen... very soon!!!
Clearly, no country could ever "steal" to NASA and USA the very amazing and historical supremacy of being been the first country of the world able to send 12 astronauts on the Moon and bring back them to Earth safely... also, the adventures of the the Apollo missions (especially of the Apollo 11) will always remain unmatched...
40 years ago, the world population was of only 3.5 billion people and great part of them was very poor (and/or illiterate) people (mainly in Asia, Africa and South America) billion of them in countries under dictatorships and with a few (and primitive) media (a few b/w TV and no any kind of computer, internet or cellphone) so, only 600 million people have seen the low-res and very low quality "phantom" b/w images of the first moon-walking in 1969, also, great part of them are now dead and the Apollo 11 witnesses still alive today (that remember this incredible adventure) are probably half or less!
But, the NEXT manned Moon landing (no matter if accomplished by americans, chinese or an international crew) will be a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT THING because in the second half of the next decade, the world population will be of OVER SEVEN BILLION PEOPLE and nearly ALL them will live in rich and democratic (or "enough democratic") countries, all them with a medium-high cultural level and, all (also those living in less democratic countries) with a full access to many and very powerful Media like an even better and faster internet, HD and 3-D televisions, satellites, super smartphones, etc. so, the next Moon landing, will be sent on very large, panoramic, high resolution TV, with full and really immersive 3-D real-time images without special goggles seen by a population of
over 6,000,000,000 people !!!
The mediatic, political, commercial, popular impact of this event will be IMMENSE!
At this point, your question probably will be: "Might, China, WIN the new Moon-race?"
My answer is a big "YES" and the reasons reside in a series of numbers shown below.
. 2 .
"2" is the most important number of this series because it's the number that will allow China to WIN the Moon-race since it's the crewnumber of all chinese Moon missions!
To WIN the new Moon-race China doesn't need to send an ARMY of astronauts in every Moon mission, but just two astronauts a time, exactly like was in all the Apollo missions, and, to have many astronauts on the Moon, China must only send more missions per year with longer stay of each mission on the lunar surface!
ALL the problems, big delays, giant cost overruns, overweight vehicles, underpowered rockets, need of new engines and boosters, etc. of the new NASA program to come back to the Moon, come (exactly) from the GIGANTIC design (called "Apollo on steroids") of Constellation, with its GIANT and HEAVY Orion capsule that has enough space for eight astronauts, is built for six astronauts but will carry FOUR astronauts toward the Moon... as a cascade, the giant capsule needs the giant Ares-1 to launch it, a giant lunar lander for a crew of four, that need a very big EDS that must be launched (togheter the lunar lander) with the giant Ares-5, as I've explained 1.5 years ago in this ghostNASA article.
To have a little idea idea of "how much crazy" the new NASA lunar program is, just think that, only the the Launch Abort System of the Orion, has a weight pretty close to those of the entire Shenzhou spacecraft!!!
Without do this incredible series of expensive mistakes China will land soon on the Moon!
. 25 .
The max payload of this rocket (about the same of an EELV like the Delta 4 Heavy) could seem "weak", if compared with the 30 mT payload to LEO of the Ares-1 or the 188 mT payload to LEO of the Ares-5, but this is true ONLY if you see it from the NASA's "Apollo on steroids" point of view, while, if you see it as the launcher of the, much smaller, TWO astronauts, manned lunar vehicles based on a multiple launches architecture of a China's Moon mission, it makes sense, since, able to launch over 13 mT of trans lunar injected mass (separately carried to LEO) towards the Moon (enough for a "Lunar Shenzhou").
. 30 .
"30" is the most impressive figure of the new Long March 5 rocket (after its payload) because it's the number of rockets per year that will be built by its production facility for a total payload mass lifted to LEO every year that could reach (if entirely used) 750 mT!
The 750 mT max annual payload that China will be able to carry to LEO from 2014 equals the payload of up to FOUR Moon missions per year accomplished with the (very heavy) Ares-1/Ares-5/Orion/Altair/EDS hardware!!!
In other words, just adding an orbital assembly (that China is going to learn soon with its own space station...) to its Moon mission architecture, it "should" be (theoretically) able to perform from 2014 up to TWICE the Moon missions per year that NASA just "hope" to do from 2020, 2022, 2028 with the Ares-1 and Ares-5 bigger rockets!!!
Of course (as explained above) China will be not so crazy to develop, build and launch a so big, expensive and heavy space-hardware, but will do everything with much smaller and efficient vehicles, so, the 750 mT of max payload to LEO available each year, could be (theoretically) enough to accomplish up to EIGHT Moon missions per year!!!
. 500 .
"500" is the annual budget in million dollars, of the China National Space Administration (CNSA) as stated (about three years ago) by its Administrator in his first visit in America.
Well, if you want to laugh about this (apparently) "modest" budget (if compared with the $16-18 billion of the NASA annual budget) stop now, since, this is one of the best demonstration of the FORCE and COMPETITIVENESS of China in the space exploration!
Thanks to its fast growing economy (generally around +10% per year) China has over $2,130,000,000,000 (yes, over two trillions of dollars) of cash reserve at the end of June 2009, that it's using, not only to "stimulate" its own economy, but, also, to "save" the economy of the entire world, including the USA, of which, China is currently financing great part of the US federal debt!
Just for curiosity, the China's cash reserve (that always grows very much every day!) is OVER 26 TIMES the entire ($81 billion) budget that NASA should receive (in the next 11 years) for Constellation, but, if we consider that China can do (at China's low costs) the SAME things that NASA does (at FIVE TIMES the price) the China's cash reserve, is (theoretically) enough large to accomplish OVER 100 TIMES the NASA's Constellation!!!
China has lots, tons, mountains of cash to invest, so, the real reason of the small budget allocated for its Space Agency is (simply) due to the fact that it didn't need one bigger!
The China costs and the engineers' salaries are so low (compared with USA and Europe's costs and salaries) that its Space Agency is able to run a good space-program, develop new rockets and vehicles, launch manned missions and space-probes, plan to build soon a space station and to land robotic vehicles on the Moon (and much more they DIDN'T say us...) with the (apparently) "ridiculous" budget of "only" $500 million per year!!!
In other words, China with only $500M does the same things that NASA and ESA do with 3-4 billion dollars or euro, and, this small number means that, IF China will really invest (someday) 3, 4, 5 billion$ (that HAS) in its Space Agency, it will be able to do the SAME things NASA does now (including a modern and advanced Space Shuttle) while, if China will decide to invest the SAME budget (around $17 billion) of NASA (money that HAS) it will be able to start NOW (thanks to its lower costs) also a manned Mars program!!!
. 400,000 .
"400,000" is the number of (very skilled) engineers that (every year) are graduated from the (excellent) China universities, or from the best universities of the world, and, THIS (much more than money) is one of the biggest point of force of China in its strong competition with the rest of the world in almost every fields, including the space!!!
With so many, so good (and "cheap") engineers China can do almost everything it wants!
. 5 .
"5" is the (estimated and approximate) delay NASA has vs. China in the development of a manned capsule, since, after the end of the Apollo program, NASA hasn't developed or build anything like this, so, when the Orion's contract was awarded to Lockeed Martin, a sort of "count down" started to try to fill the giant "gap" NASA has today vs. Russia and China in a space-technology that is absolutely necessary for the next Moon missions!
. 2025 .
"2025" is the manned lunar landing "fake date" that, China's officials, say and give to the Press from about three years, so, nearly everybody (especially, the other countries' governments...) could believe that China has no real intentions to go to the Moon, or, at least, not so soon...
Four years ago, when NASA has revealed its plans to come back to the Moon, there was a giant flood of "word & photoshop" proposals from other space agencies (Russia, India, Korea, Japan, Europe, etc.) aerospace companies, new.space start-up, etc. with a rush, between them, to claim to be "ready to land a man on the Moon within 2017" or sooner!
There was also some "rumors" and a few China's officials claims about possible landings of China's astronauts on the Moon around 2017 or so... but these rumors and claims has been, quickly and indefinitely, stopped by (I believe...) the China's government, since... China did not want to promise things it isn't 100% sure to accomplish, and/or... China did not want that, other countries, could know (years before) all its (secret and hidden) plans for space, to avoid that other governments take any "countermeasure" (mainly, more investments) to (try to) beat China in its rush to space!
As a consequence, all the last three years' official claims from China has been very quiet and "low profile" saying only things like... "we want to send a small rover on the Moon in 2017" or... "we hope to land a crew on the Moon in 2025" etc... :)
. 2016 .
"2016" is the probable REAL date of the first Moon mission with China vehicle and crew!
Of course, this big goal, could be achieved by China ONLY if they have started NOW to develop and build ALL the necessary lunar hardware (capsules, spacesuits, lunar landers, EDS, etc.) while, if they plan to develop it "step by step" (rather "in parallel") the FIRST lunar landing will need, at least, two more years, to be finally accomplished around 2018.
After all, NASA has landed the first man on the Moon in 1969, only eight years after the Apollo program started in 1961, so, why did China should not be able to do the same???
. 0 .
"0" is the number of "things" that, all other countries' astronauts, will need to bring with themselves when they will (finally) go (or go again) on the Moon with their own vehicles!
That, since (you know) China is the world's #1 manufacturing country that produces for us (nearly) everything we need (from shoes to computers) so, when, in 2025-2030, the american, european, japanese, russian, australian, brazilian, egyptian, korean, astronauts will land on the Moon, they will (simply) buy everything they need (rovers, restaurants, water, oxygen, space suits, scientific instruments, digging tools, home appliances, orbital vehicles, habitation modules, postal couriers, games, shoes, etc.) at very cheap prices, from many China's "space-shops" that will be there, on the Moon, from a decade... :)
The only things they'll need to bring on the Moon, will be their Lunar Credit Cards... :)
However, I doubt that USA, Europe, Japan, Russia, etc. will ever build their own lunar vehicles and rockets since, if China will make all the necessary space-hardware and will land on the Moon) FIVE-TEN years BEFORE all other countries, the China' lunar vehicles will be so dramatically cheap and the other countries' lunar vehicles will be so incredibly expensive, that, the latter vehicles, will NEVER (o no longer) be built, and all countries will (simply) buy (or rent) the lunar vehicles made in China (like already happens today with great part of the hi-tech products) or will send their scientists (and tourists...) on the Moon with the China-Moon weekly Lunar Express space-train, paying only the very cheap Moon-ticket at around $20 million (or Yuan...?) per trip!
"Sci-fi"? ...just wait the end of the next decade... and you will see that happens... :)
. 3000 .
"3000" will be the (minimum) number of years (or about 100 generations...) that USA, Europe, Russia, Japan, etc. must need to wait to just "hope" to see the world forget the humiliation to have lost the new Moon-race (and, maybe, also the upcoming Mars-race) allowing a China-crew to go on the Moon and be seen in HD 3-D by 6 billion people... :(
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