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Thread: Another space race?

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    Another space race?

    The launching of Sputnik 1 kicked off a real space race, as Americans were shocked by what the Russians had been able to achieve, especially with fears of possible nuclear missiles raining down from space. The cold war atmosphere of the time also made beating the Russians in all things a primary goal, with money being almost no object. Vast sums were thus poured into the US space program, ultimately culminating in the moon landings as well as the unmanned probes to the planets.

    But the disappearance of the USSR removed this imperative. Now the main US imperative on the world stage is the defeat of muslim extremism, but this opponent is not competing in space at all. Other than that, the primary goal is saving US tax dollars, in order to cut taxes or at least avoid tax increases. Doing as much as you can for as little cost as possible is now the main focus. If projected costs of any missions are too great then those missions just won't happen. To send men to Mars or fund any other vastly costly space adventure is not really on the cards because no matter what the theoretical talk of it might be, the tax dollars will not be forthcoming. US leaders need to be voted in to power by a public that doesn't like paying unnecessary taxes.

    What it will take is another undemocratic regime akin to the USSR, putting national prestige way ahead of any concerns about it's own people's tax rates, to finally pull off something spectacular and shock the American people with another Sputnik 1 moment. Thus far China looks like being the most likely candidate. For the time being it appears to still have some catching up to do. But if at some future point -after spending vast sums - it stuns the world by, for example, successfully landing men on Mars, it will likely create a new imperative in America, a new desire to pour money into space exploration to catch up and compete. Then perhaps we'll have a new space race.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnSmith View Post
    What it will take is another undemocratic regime akin to the USSR, putting national prestige way ahead of any concerns about it's own people's tax rates, to finally pull off something spectacular and shock the American people with another Sputnik 1 moment. Thus far China looks like being the most likely candidate. For the time being it appears to still have some catching up to do. But if at some future point -after spending vast sums - it stuns the world by, for example, successfully landing men on Mars, it will likely create a new imperative in America, a new desire to pour money into space exploration to catch up and compete. Then perhaps we'll have a new space race.
    Yes; prestige and the impression of falling behind will help rally people to push forward, but I don't think we will ever see anything like that again.

    Some of that prestige was about technological display that can imply military might. The other large part about that was about international space policies.
    The military connection is all but gone, and the previous actions have set precedence for space policies.

    Overall technology and science is what will be the concern of the future. In some ways the space program is an infusion to keep the technology economy afloat.

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    Depending on what China does with their space capabilities, this could lead the US and maybe the EU to expand their space efforts. If it appears that China is doing military related activities, it could cause other countries to counteract this.

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    As it says in the Stickies at the top of Q&A:
    ...this section of the forum is for astronomy and space exploration questions with straightforward, generally accepted answers.
    The OP would not meet that requirement; this is the opening of a debate, not a straightforward question, and so the thread is moved from Q&A to Space Exploration.
    Quote Originally Posted by JohnSmith View Post
    Now the main US imperative on the world stage is the defeat of muslim extremism, but this opponent is not competing in space at all. Other than that, the primary goal is saving US tax dollars, in order to cut taxes or at least avoid tax increases.
    Please do not go there. We do have a "space exploration" exception to our no politics rule (Rule 12 - link in my signature - I suggest you review it), but such comments are well outside of that exception.
    Last edited by Swift; 2015-Jul-01 at 09:48 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    As it says in the Stickies at the top of Q&A:

    The OP would not meet that requirement; this is the opening of a debate, not a straightforward question, and so the thread is moved from Q&A to Space Exploration.

    Please do not go there. We do have a "space exploration" exception to our no politics rule (Rule 12 - link in my signature - I suggest you review it), but such comments are well outside of that exception.
    Apologies. I will be more careful in future.

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    I think peoples hindsight about American pride being the reason the space race happens is deeply flawed as you point out. I don't think China going doing a manned mission to Mars would even be in the same ballpark as Sputnik. Even if there was a "military component" to it and for the life of me I couldn't imagine one that would cause another race. I think we are going to trickle along with space exploration until we get to the point where serious commercial interests are involved. Then I don't think it will be another race so much between nations but a race between multinational corporations. The projections of sci-fi universes where mega corporations are the real controllers of what happens seems much more likely. I won't go further because that is a politics discussion and not astronomy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnSmith View Post
    What it will take is another undemocratic regime akin to the USSR, putting national prestige way ahead of any concerns about it's own people's tax rates, to finally pull off something spectacular and shock the American people with another Sputnik 1 moment. Thus far China looks like being the most likely candidate.
    I guess that you are American, in which case it makes some sense that your primary focus seems to be on the American response. But I would also suggest that the US doesn't necessarily have to be a party in a space race today--the situation is much different than it was in the 1960s. Today, a space race could happen between China and India and Brazil, with the US (and perhaps Europe as well) taking an indifferent approach. China might not shock the American people, but might shock the Indian people.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I guess that you are American, in which case it makes some sense that your primary focus seems to be on the American response. But I would also suggest that the US doesn't necessarily have to be a party in a space race today--the situation is much different than it was in the 1960s. Today, a space race could happen between China and India and Brazil, with the US (and perhaps Europe as well) taking an indifferent approach. China might not shock the American people, but might shock the Indian people.
    That is a fair point, though I suspect few contenders could muster the financial resourses currently, and the USA is still way ahead of most at the moment, and has the wealth to do it if it has the will.

    But no, I am not American. I am British.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnSmith View Post
    That is a fair point, though I suspect few contenders could muster the financial resourses currently, and the USA is still way ahead of most at the moment, and has the wealth to do it if it has the will.

    But no, I am not American. I am British.
    The key is financial resources and right now there are only 6 countries that you could say are key players in space.

    As you rightly say, the USA is still way ahead of the rest but right now seems to have lost its direction. In unmanned space exploration of the outer planets there is no competition. Only when it comes to manned flight are there problems. NASA is doing its best to get the commercial crew programme in place by 2017, but you have the US government doing its best to delay it by cutting down on the funding. There is plenty of funding when it comes to developing SLS and Orion but at US3 billion a shot ??? They are also seen as the International space leader in international cooperation with the ISS. They have no interest of manned missions to the moon and are keen to developing a manned mission to Mars. They already have ESA developing the Orion Service Module.

    We then have Russia. It has a lot of plans but unfortunately not the financial muscle to see them through. Because of the problems it is currently having with the west, it is looking at increasing working with China in Space (It does have a joint project with ESA -ExoMars). Its future plans for a Space Station and moon exploration are talked about as joint projects with China. Right now, it and China are the only two countries with the capability to put humans safely into space.

    ESA I have already mentioned and they do have a very strong working relationship with the US in not only the Orion project but also the ISS. It does have financial strength but not enough to undertake a Mars or Moon base project on its own. In fact the new chief of ISA has gone on record as saying he is willing to work with other countries on a moon base. He also wants ESA to be able send their own astronauts into space within 5 years.

    Japan has developed powerful rockets, but they are only used for unmanned missions. They are active on the ISS. Have not seen or read of plans of manned missions in BEO from them.

    India is currently handicapped with having rockets capable of putting only up to 2.5 tons into GEO. Not enough power to start a manned space programme. For that they will have to wait for the GSLV MKIII to become operational. On present plans that will be another 4 to 5 years from now. Then I see them more likely joining one of the international space projects. With the ISS in its last legs, I suspect it might be the Chinese Space Station and by logical extension the Chinese moon missions. They will have the financial resources to be an active partner as by then they would be have a 4 to 5 trillion economy.

    I have left China to the last as I see China as probably having the greatest effect on how space will develop over the next few years. I put this down to the vast amount of money they put into R&D and the fruits will be there in for all to see in the next few years. By the end of next year they will have all the basic tools they need to develop their Space Station as well as their robotic missions to the moon. They will be using their Space Station to start International projects where they are seen as the lead country rather then the US. Both Russia and ESA have already expressed interest on working with them here as well as on their moon base when it does materialize.

    So you could say there is a race on, but with the US pulling to Mars and China to the moon. It will very much depend on the other countries on how this "race" develops. It could very well be for example ESA having their legs in both camps.

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    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    Only when it comes to manned flight are there problems.
    What problems are not in the standard realm of spaceflight?

    CCtCAP has not been stalled by a slight reduction in awards. The commercial companies are funding the development and the awards are an augmentation to this. The real funding will be contracts.

    SLS is moving ahead.

    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    They have no interest of manned missions to the moon and are keen to developing a manned mission to Mars.
    The do have interest in the moon. What they don't have is plans for the moon or Mars... Yet. Mars is the end goal, and even you have pointed out many proponents of using the moon as a step to reach that goal.

    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    They already have ESA developing the Orion Service Module.
    So what? This is currently the only program of any country for BEO flight.

    The problem is that NASA is not striving for the same goals as other countries. Therefore, the perception of advancement in space is muddy. NASA is doing things that no-one else is. Others are still trying to do what NASA has already done. NASA is lacking in things that others are doing.

    At this point it's apples and oranges.

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    selvaarchi,

    Your somewhat somber analysis of NASA is the same one I've been reading for decades. I agree the manned part is rather rudderless but there is no plausible target. Regardless, I like ARM though it could/should probably be done unmanned. IMO, NASA seed money/investments are great for long term space growth. And, of course, they lead in just about any category of space you could think of.

    China would need to spend huge quantities of money to catch up to US. It likely won't and will try to stay not too far behind. But they could very well compete with India for prestige. As you point out, India's economy is indeed growing and their historical achievements in Math and Physics lend themselves well to space as demonstrated with their Mars success.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NEOWatcher View Post
    What problems are not in the standard realm of spaceflight?

    CCtCAP has not been stalled by a slight reduction in awards. The commercial companies are funding the development and the awards are an augmentation to this. The real funding will be contracts.

    SLS is moving ahead.
    It is a problem, when NASA and those that hold their purse strings are not on the same page.

    Quote Originally Posted by NEOWatcher View Post
    The do have interest in the moon. What they don't have is plans for the moon or Mars... Yet. Mars is the end goal, and even you have pointed out many proponents of using the moon as a step to reach that goal.
    NASA has but unfortunately those that hold the purse strings do not.

    Quote Originally Posted by NEOWatcher View Post
    So what? This is currently the only program of any country for BEO flight.
    I am pointing it out as a positive. US does have one major partner in developing Orion but not in ARM or the more distant target of manned landings on Mars.

    Quote Originally Posted by NEOWatcher View Post
    The problem is that NASA is not striving for the same goals as other countries. Therefore, the perception of advancement in space is muddy. NASA is doing things that no-one else is. Others are still trying to do what NASA has already done. NASA is lacking in things that others are doing.

    At this point it's apples and oranges.
    With funding being a major hurdle, it will be good if others are on board. Funding a major project like a Mars mission is a huge undertaking for one country to do by itself.

    Agreed it is apples and oranges and that is why I pointed out that the US and China are pulling in two different directions. Unlike the first race where the objectives were the same, this time it is more about how many partners can you get to work towards your goals.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 7cscb View Post
    selvaarchi,

    Your somewhat somber analysis of NASA is the same one I've been reading for decades. I agree the manned part is rather rudderless but there is no plausible target. Regardless, I like ARM though it could/should probably be done unmanned. IMO, NASA seed money/investments are great for long term space growth. And, of course, they lead in just about any category of space you could think of.
    Agree with your view that NASA seed money/investments are great for long term space growth. That is why both China and India are trying to do the same in their countries.

    Quote Originally Posted by 7cscb View Post
    China would need to spend huge quantities of money to catch up to US. It likely won't and will try to stay not too far behind. But they could very well compete with India for prestige. As you point out, India's economy is indeed growing and their historical achievements in Math and Physics lend themselves well to space as demonstrated with their Mars success.
    I think China is investing huge quantities of money. That is why I keep pointing out the number of new space crafts they are coming out with in the near future. On manned space flight I see them having caught up with the the US by the end of this decade. The 2020s will be when China will be expending their horizons to manned exploration to BEO at the same time as the US is restarting their manned quest to BEO.

    This is where I see the race moving in two different directions. The US focused on ARM and later on to Mars. China leading possible Russia and ESA to first a moon landing and then a base there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    It is a problem, when NASA and those that hold their purse strings are not on the same page.
    NASA has but unfortunately those that hold the purse strings do not.
    Except for the cancellation of Constellation, and some smaller programs, NASA is still going ahead with a big rocket, a BEO mission and extension of the ISS. So; while the people with the purse strings may tug those strings quite tightly and it's always a disappointment when they do, NASA is still moving ahead.
    Besides, I see no other space power that publicizes their ambitions more than the US. This makes any changes, appear more fickle than they really are.

    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    I am pointing it out as a positive. US does have one major partner in developing Orion but not in ARM or the more distant target of manned landings on Mars.
    Yes; and partners in other programs. Why do you think everything needs partners?
    Besides, the plan for Mars has not evolve yet. We don't know if there will be partners or not.


    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    Agreed it is apples and oranges and that is why I pointed out that the US and China are pulling in two different directions.
    They aren't really different directions, but they are non-comparable. NASA is moving ahead while China is working on maturing their program.

    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    Unlike the first race where the objectives were the same, this time it is more about how many partners can you get to work towards your goals.
    NASA has partnered with just about every space-fairing nation in different levels and in very large ways from science sharing and hardware development.
    Just because there are some political issues with one country (which is improving), you seem to think that it's a major point.

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    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    On manned space flight I see them having caught up with the the US by the end of this decade.
    I really do not know what you mean by that but it is regardless very optimistic. Even if China had equivalent technology by 2020, they would not have the depth of experience. And they won't have the technology because they don't have the experience. It won't take decades but 5 years seems incredibly optimistic.
    And I actually cheer China's future success in space because I would be happy to see NASA budget get increased, even if only due to prestige.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 7cscb View Post
    I really do not know what you mean by that but it is regardless very optimistic. Even if China had equivalent technology by 2020, they would not have the depth of experience. And they won't have the technology because they don't have the experience. It won't take decades but 5 years seems incredibly optimistic.
    And I actually cheer China's future success in space because I would be happy to see NASA budget get increased, even if only due to prestige.
    Not in number of manned hours in space. By then they will be able to support astronauts permanently in space like what the US does with the ISS. Not having the depth of experience is softened a bit by partnering Russia and ESA who do have the experience. ESA for example has supplied some equipment for the Tiangong-2.

    It is BEO that the US is the only country that has experience. China will have to gain that the hard way - by doing it.

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    This news is not about space exploration but it is important to the debate on how China has developed technologically. For some in this forum China is 50 years behind the US in space exploration and the only technology they have is either copied from the Soviets or stole from the US.

    Then explain how for 5 years in a row, China holds the position on having the fastest computers on planet earth!!!!

    My view in manned space technology is they are much closer to the the US then many give them credit for. In the next 2 years the gap will be closing much quicker and within 10 years they might be number one.

    http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/20..._134408677.htm

    China's Tianhe-2 supercomputer was named the world's fastest supercomputer at the International Supercomputing Conference in Frankfurt, Germany, on Monday.

    It was the fifth time in a row that Tianhe-2 has been topped the world's fastest supercomputer list since June 2013, when it was unveiled. The supercomputer was designed and made by Changsha-based National University of Defense Technology.

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    If you talk to people on the west coast , they will likely want reservoirs and rain.... in a very big way,
    and...........not so much boots on mars. Robotic missions? Perhaps. Big difference.

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    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    Then explain how for 5 years in a row, China holds the position on having the fastest computers on planet earth!!!!
    Let me say one thing positive about that, and then make two critical comments. On the positive side, there is no doubt that China is technologically advanced. Many computer parts are manufactured there, and they do have a high technological level. It's a big country with many scientists.

    Then two caveats, just about the prize you're referring to. First, you can make a very fast computer by attaching many nodes together. In part, the limit is how big you want to make it and how much electricity you want to use (believe me, it's a lot). The second is that the top500 prize is one that you might notice is always won by computers in government laboratories. The reason is that in certain ways they are built to win the prize. It is generally said that in fact the fastest computer in the world would be Google's server farm, but of course Google would never consider shutting their service down for several days to configure the server to run the LINPACK software and then run it and measure the outcome.

    But still, yes they do have the fastest.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    Then explain how for 5 years in a row, China holds the position on having the fastest computers on planet earth!!!!
    Two years. From your quote "It was the fifth time in a row that Tianhe-2 has been topped the world's fastest supercomputer list since June 2013 [...]"

    And from

    http://www.top500.org/

    The U.S. has the most systems listed in the Top 500 (46.6%), followed by Japan (7.8%), then by China and Germany (tied at 7.4%), with Russia way down at 1.6% . . . despite undisputedly having excellent rocket technology. So among other things, these aren't issues tied too terribly closely together.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    Then two caveats, just about the prize you're referring to. First, you can make a very fast computer by attaching many nodes together. In part, the limit is how big you want to make it and how much electricity you want to use (believe me, it's a lot). The second is that the top500 prize is one that you might notice is always won by computers in government laboratories. The reason is that in certain ways they are built to win the prize.
    It also can be a bit of a trick to figure out where the hardware is actually coming from. From the Top500 page:

    The No. 1 system, Tianhe-2, and the No. 7 system, Stampede, use Intel Xeon Phi processors to speed up their computational rate. The No. 2 system, Titan, and the No. 6 system, Piz Daint, use NVIDIA GPUs to accelerate computation.
    Intel and NVIDIA are American companies, but where are the chips and boards being assembled? In any event, a lot of countries can buy them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    Two years. From your quote "It was the fifth time in a row that Tianhe-2 has been topped the world's fastest supercomputer list since June 2013 [...]"

    And from

    http://www.top500.org/

    The U.S. has the most systems listed in the Top 500 (46.6%), followed by Japan (7.8%), then by China and Germany (tied at 7.4%), with Russia way down at 1.6% . . . despite undisputedly having excellent rocket technology. So among other things, these aren't issues tied too terribly closely together.
    Point taken, It is held twice a year and not once as I had assumed . But it still drives home the point that the Chinese can and do develop a lot their own high end technology. That is why I get frustrated when I see comments like they are 50 years behind in space technology and all they do is copy or steal technology from other countries.

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    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    Point taken, It is held twice a year and not once as I had assumed . But it still drives home the point that the Chinese can and do develop a lot their own high end technology.
    Was the Intel Xeon Phi developed in China? Was their supercomputer built without Intel's input? I think you're getting into very murky and not terribly relevant territory when you're talking about building supercomputers vs. space technology. Building a supercomputer today is about how much you're willing to spend to put together widely available commercial hardware. With more hardware you can get higher scores. It's not about building a highly specialized or unique machine like the old days.

    That is why I get frustrated when I see comments like they are 50 years behind in space technology and all they do is copy or steal technology from other countries.
    Well, I wouldn't say China is 50 years behind and they certainly have things of their own to be proud of, but I would say it's a complex issue. There's a general technology aspect and an issue in developing and maintaining familiarity with operations. And space technology is controlled to a much greater extent on a national basis than general computer technology because of the military concerns, so countries have to develop more of their own expertise. China *has* been coming at this from a catch-up position, and it is definitely true that they've been involved in substantial aerospace espionage.

    I don't know where they'll be in a decade - to a large extent, it's going to depend on how much they're willing to spend on it, and that will in turn depend on how much they have to spend, so will be affected by how their economy goes along.

    Anyway, my personal view is that the big issue in the next decade will be how the space commercial market changes, which shows signs of having a bigger shift than in it has in decades. That I think will push general space technology and ideas about what can be done in space, and will change how national space programs work. We're already starting to see this in the U.S., but it's tricky - SpaceX, for example, is on the learning curve too, and there is a reason why space companies like to stick with old technology. So that will affect how fast the changes happen.

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    I am in full agreement that right now there is a lot they have to catch up with the US on manned space flight. Where I do not agree is your point that it will depend on how much they are willing to spend on space technology.

    I have pointed earlier that China is going through what I call in US terms a 60s moment. They have come out with their space tug and in the next few months the Long March 6. It is next year that will be their bumper year. They have the Long March 5, Long March 7, cargo ship and their new space station. To be able to do that all within the next 18 months they need to have spent a huge amount of $$$.

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    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    I am in full agreement that right now there is a lot they have to catch up with the US on manned space flight. Where I do not agree is your point that it will depend on how much they are willing to spend on space technology.
    I've never really seen it as a "Catch up". What I see is the will and the funding to achieve a goal. They may be behind in experience, but being a superpower they have already demonstrated their will and desires and abilities.

    With spaceflight, it's not really a matter of decades old technology, or even concepts. Any country can obtain those if they have the resources. Even if China were a decade or two behind in space technology, it really isn't much different than today until you get into some of the minutia of the projects. Russia has done very well with decades old technology. Space travel really hasn't changed much except for some new technology enabling certain efficiencies.

    I see what China, India and other countries are doing is only changing their priorities and funding, not their ability.

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    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    ...For some in this forum China is 50 years behind the US in space exploration and the only technology they have is either copied from the Soviets or stole from the US...
    I don't recall anybody saying that and, indeed, I get the sense you overvalue China's accomplishments vis--vis NASA's. And that's OK. I myself think India's recent accomplishments are impressive and maybe more than they really are: It's subjective. Regardless, I think NASA/USA will continue to dominate space for at least 10 years and probably longer.

    I get that China will have successes and may overtake other second tier players. And I wish China did start showing great progress because then USA would allocate more resources to its own efforts and then we'd have a real space race. And that would be good news to every space enthusiast.

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    Van Rijn, if nothing else China needs the jobs provided by a space program. With a billion people population you have to come up with well over 35,000 new jobs every single day to keep up with the new recruits.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 7cscb View Post
    I don't recall anybody saying that and, indeed, I get the sense you overvalue China's accomplishments vis--vis NASA's. And that's OK. I myself think India's recent accomplishments are impressive and maybe more than they really are: It's subjective. Regardless, I think NASA/USA will continue to dominate space for at least 10 years and probably longer.

    I get that China will have successes and may overtake other second tier players. And I wish China did start showing great progress because then USA would allocate more resources to its own efforts and then we'd have a real space race. And that would be good news to every space enthusiast.
    India has done very well with the tools she has. She can put 1.5 tons into GEO with their PSLV and 2.5 tons with their GSLV MKII. Not enough to start a manned space program.

    For that they need to finish developing the GSLV MKIII. Unfortunately the earliest 1st test flight for that is December 2017. Give another 2 to 3 years to iron out all the bugs before you put humans on top of it, we are already at 2020 before their manned space flight can take off.

    China to me has the most structured space objectives of the space faring nations. They have methodically come to where they are now. Next important objective is to get their new rockets tested. LM6 this year and LM5 and LM7 next year. Then the attention will move to their Space Station and the moon sample return mission.

    It is only after that will we get get the manned moon missions and hopefully an international effort with ESA and Russia to establish a moon base (I hope India joins in, if that happens).

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigDon View Post
    Van Rijn, if nothing else China needs the jobs provided by a space program. With a billion people population you have to come up with well over 35,000 new jobs every single day to keep up with the new recruits.
    But how many people are retiring each day?
    As above, so below

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by 7cscb View Post
    I don't recall anybody saying that and, indeed, I get the sense you overvalue China's accomplishments vis--vis NASA's.
    Here is a recent audio discussion over in the States on space where the presenter ( about 15 an a half minutes into the discussion) mentions China being 50 years behind in manned space flight. It has also come up in some of the discussions in this forum.

    http://onpoint.wbur.org/2015/06/30/g...nasa-moon-mars

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