As NASA is expected to seek funding from private organizations under the new spending plan and retire the current space capsule, China expresses a great deal of interest in putting its own astronauts on the moon. The Chinese Space Agency suggests it could do so within the next decade. The move is being called the dawn of a new age of space exploration, while others lament the US’ potential loss of Lunar supremacy.
The Obama administration announced earlier this month that it would be drastically cutting back on government funding of NASA, turning it into an organization that would require privatized funding to allow for future projects. The move is being criticized by many who say the US will soon lose its position as the forerunner of space exploration in the coming decade. Filling the vacuum left behind by the sudden move, several top Chinese officials in the space agency have expressed strong interest in moving their own project forward and become the second nation on Earth to send a manned vessel to the Lunar surface. Ken Pounds, a professor of space science lecturing at Leicester University suggests that by 2020, China could put explorers on the moon.
Of course NASA has already begun to share the glory of Lunar exploration as India’s Chandrayaan-1 made the incredible discovery of water on the moon, and even the potential for carbon formations suggesting the possibility of life or past life (possibly evidence that the moon was knocked from Earth after life was already in development). With the lack of available funds, NASA’s Constellation program, which carried a price tag of $81 billion, has been shelved indefinitely.
Now that China has begun manned orbital missions, and launched its own robotic probes to the moon, many fear the US will be left in the wake of the rest of the world. Of course others are not so sure. Some say the manned missions will be more likely as the US steps aside to allow shared exploration of the solar system, while others say the decrease in pressure will allow all world economies a chance to recover for a few years, and once pressure is back on, world governments will show a renewed interest in space exploration and as a result, moon travel.
Some are also wondering if a manned mission to the moon would be an entirely different concept than that of the Lunar modules. With advanced technology, better fuel, better materials, and generally higher levels of technology, some have actually suggested something that has seemed ridiculous until recently: a maintained mission to the moon long term and involving several different people. It seems such a base would likely be used as a launching point for other platforms, but another chilling suggestion has come up. The moon would also be a terrifyingly effective place for a missile launch platform. Of course such a platform would be incredibly vulnerable to attack, and is hardly feasible with current technology, but it has caused quite a bit of fear despite the 1967 Outer Space treaty which would illegalize any such activity on the moon.