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Chinese Moon Base by 2012 - or 2006? 978

Posted by michael
from the moonraker dept.
apsmith writes "Former congressman and House Science chairman Robert S. Walker has written some rather striking conclusions about Chinese intentions in space over the next few years, based on information received for the recent Commisison on the Future of Aerospace. Walker is convinced the Chinese are going all-out for a permanent settlement on the Moon within 10 years; apparently some closer to the situation in Japan think the first landing will be in only 3-4 years. Meanwhile the Economist says IT people are starting to focus on space as the next high-tech venue. Fortunately, despite NASA's neglect, we do have a few private missions to the Moon in the works."
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Chinese Moon Base by 2012 - or 2006?

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  • Good for them! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:06AM (#6075659)
    The russians never pulled this off, but maybe a communist red flag next to the stars and stripes might knock the Americans off their high horse, or at least, wake them up. The Chinese are also willing to accept loss of life in this pursuit, so it wouldn't suprise me if they had something going bt 2010.

    I'd just be happy to see Homo Sapiens someplace other than Earth.
    • by pubjames (468013) on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:39AM (#6076000)
      or at least, wake them up

      You want them to be more woken up? Not me. The USA is acting likes it's on a caffine and sugar high at the moment.

      USA Hey, maybe we should bomb Syria? Or Iran? You know, for world peace?

      Rest of world Erm. Let's just think about it for a bit, shall we?

      USA What?! [Crazy stare] Are you threatening me? Huh, huh? I thought you were my friend? Well you're no friend of mine. You want a fight? Huh? Huh? I can take you all on...

      I, for one, would prefer the USA to take a bit of a nap, rather than being woken up!
      • Re:Good for them! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JohnnyCannuk (19863)
        Right on brother!!!

        Funny as hell. I guess the American mods can't take a little ribbing.

        I get modded down for stuff like this all the time.

        If speaking your opinion make you a troll, I don't want any karma points!

      • by Doomdark (136619) on Friday May 30, 2003 @11:05AM (#6076896) Homepage Journal
        No shit. The episode with Iraq was just like from one of tv series featuring extra-zealous cops:

        Law and Order: Loose Cannon in Iraq, starring Bush Jr, featuring other meaningless sides as necessary.

        USA: I know that scumbag over there is committing these n+1 crimes, in addition to being a total jerk. [full list of crimes, from pedophilia to narcotic crimes follows]
        World: Um, ok, yeah he is an asshole... so show us the evidence, and we'll get him convicted. He had done some pretty bad stuff earlier... but due to super powers not caring back then, got away.
        USA: Ok, here are the rumours I heard, which pretty much prove he's done it all. Plus I KNOW he's guilty.
        World: Uh uh... err, that's not, like, evidence yet. We can't just go in like loose cannons can we?
        USA: D'oh! You pussy yellow-livered liberals! I'm going in, getting the villain, then show you the #%*)$^ evidence!
        USA: Come on, Tony, let's take care of this scumbag here and now!
        ... police gets to guy's door, kicks it in, breaks furniture, yells at wife to find out where the villain is, scares the kid, etc. etc.
        USA: Ok, here here! Listen to this; I found out the guy was a bad husband, drinking too much, neglecting kids! Yee-haw! 1 - 0 for law and order!
        World: Right, bad bad guy... but where's the evidence of crimes you listed, from making crystal meth to leading a child porn ring?
        USA: Um, yeah, those things I said I knew he dun... like, who cares, he was a bad guy wasn't he?
        USA: But enough bickering about details... now, see, the house is a mess, door broken, need to be fixed, costs money... errr... guys, let's collect some dough, don't be stingy here, help the poor people out! Seems like I forgot my checkbook, but, hey, that's what friends are for right?
        World: Did we ask you to kick door in, slap kids, throw chairs around, piss on the porch? Did we say we'll foot the bill on this stupid cowboy stunt?
        World: But ok, guess we have to help to clean up the mess. As usual. But only because the family is ruined, and you are the big bully that will just kick our butt too if we don't.
        USA: Oh but hey, here's the solution; the dude had a car that I can sell to my friends over at Deal-a-Car, for low price... that should cover something. Then I can also take these electronics, that could pay something small... and here's something other valuable I can loot I mean use for helping these poor folks here!

        ... to be continued, I'm afraid.

    • The Russians (Score:5, Informative)

      by missing000 (602285) on Friday May 30, 2003 @11:23AM (#6077133)
      The russians never pulled this off, but maybe a communist red flag next to the stars and stripes might knock the Americans off their high horse, or at least, wake them up.

      No flag, but they did have the first landing [wikipedia.org], 2 rovers [wikipedia.org], and 24 unmanned probes which even returned samples.

      In a lot of respects they beat us pretty well on the moon. I think the technical details of unmanned rovers and returning samples all remotely are very cool.
  • Too late... (Score:3, Funny)

    by cruppel (603595) * on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:06AM (#6075662) Homepage

    2001 has come and gone. Still , watch out for large black rectangular prisms once you start building.

  • "Fortunately" ??? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mirko (198274) on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:06AM (#6075672) Journal
    Why should this be considered a problem if non-US people plan to get to the Moon ?
    I thought this was like Antartic : a Free (as in... uh?) place.
    • by JJahn (657100) on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:08AM (#6075688)
      You obviously missed the press release. The Moon now belongs completely to the US. Any enemy spacecraft approaching it will be shot down with missles launched from a secret base on the moons surface.
    • Re:"Fortunately" ??? (Score:3, Informative)

      by !splut (512711)

      There really are lots of ways to respond to that statement. I think the first thing to point out, though, is the difference between the Moon and Antarctica. The Moon hosts a wealth of potential resources that a colonizing nation or corporation could exploit, irrespective of any vague agreements and conceptions regarding its international status.

      The technical challenge of sending spacecraft and humans to the Moon may necessetate advances in engineering and material science. The Lunar surface would provid
    • Re:"Fortunately" ??? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Guppy06 (410832)
      "I thought this was like Antartic : a Free (as in... uh?) place."

      You obviously don't know about the dozen or so competing claims [fotw.net] to various parts of that continent. Just because the US is one of the countries that doesn't recognize any of them doesn't mean the Australians, the French, the New Zealanders, the Chileans, the Argentines, the British, and even the Norse don't think they own it.
  • why even bother? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by garcia (6573) * on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:07AM (#6075674) Homepage
    mining materials from the moon is going to be more expensive than raiding Western Russia and mining in Siberia then shipping it back to China.

    It's expensive to live there, to ship people there, and to experiment there (what to experiment on I will never know).

    I can't see a financial justification to use it as a start point for Mars missions when there is nothing of use on Mars (even if there is water and "life").

    Let's have our people suffer and wither away in the wastelands of undeveloped China and build a moon base!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Why did America strive to reach the moon, but for the ability to claim that they alone had made it. It was heavy artillery in the silent war against the USSR. The same is true today. China is one of the great superpowers, and now it's trying to establish itself as THE superpower.
      • Big picture (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Mattygfunk1 (596840) on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:43AM (#6076034)
        Why did America strive to reach the moon, but for the ability to claim that they alone had made it.

        I always considered the moon landing an achievement for the entire human race.

        Acknowledged that Americans had the technology, supplied the funding, and risked their people in pursuit of the world-wide dream of getting to the moon.

        Americans have been too the moon, but much more importantly humans have been to the moon.

        Dragon Action Figures [mibglobal.com.au]

        • I always considered the moon landing an achievement for the entire human race.

          As did NASA, apparently.
          Here Men From Planet Earth First Set Foot Upon the Moon.

          July 1969 A.D. We Came In Peace For All Mankind.
    • National prestige (Score:5, Insightful)

      by maddogsparky (202296) on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:17AM (#6075784)
      The Chinese want to go for the same reason as the US--it shows the rest of the world what their country is capable of. Going to the moon might not seem to be such a big deal anymore to the average American, but you have to remember that the _only_ people to walk on the moon have been Americans.

      To the rest of the world, this is just one more triumph of the United States that nobody else has caught up to after 35 YEARS! The second country to land on the moon would still look big in the eyes of the rest of the world, and more-so if they build a moon base (something not even the USA has done).

      On a different note, I'm going back to school for aerospace engineering. When touring the department, I found that they are having record enrollment in both their graduate and undergraduate programs. Kinda make's one wonder how many of them (like me) are switching from the computer industry...

      • by sheldon (2322)
        "On a different note, I'm going back to school for aerospace engineering. When touring the department, I found that they are having record enrollment in both their graduate and undergraduate programs. Kinda make's one wonder how many of them (like me) are switching from the computer industry..."

        When I graduated back in '91 people were actively switching from Aerospace Engineering into Fishery and Wildlife programs the job prospects were that bad.

        I suspect it's better today, but I can't honestly believe it
    • by joehoya (541611)
      I, for one, am glad that previous generations of explorers, such as Columbus, Magellan, Lewis & Clark, etc. did not take this short-sighted point of view. It seems to me that history is full of exploration undertaken before any tangible results were expected. Many of these expeditions bore wildly successful results that were not even imagined before the journey was undertaken. Space is to us today what the oceans were in the 15th century.
    • Re:why even bother? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DrXym (126579)
      Financial reward isn't everything, how about human endeavour? Basically mankind could sit on its ass and never explore, never colonise, never do anything because there was no perceived reward but I suspect we'd be extinct by now if that were the case. Exploration is risky but it can pay off in spades, to which all living humans are a testament to.

      Unless humanity explores and pushes itself, it will stagnate. Space exploration provides a unique focus for that talent, and for all we know there may be very ta

  • by Malachi (5716) *
    Why did we stop going to the moon?

    I touched it, I'm done.. .. huh?

    I've seen countless reasons on why we should base to the moon but have never understood the reasoning for manning to mars before we've settled our closest orbiter.

    -M-
    • I would agree that it would make sense to continue with "easy" parts (moon) before continuing... but I can't recall too many good sensible reasons for why settling moon would be worthwhile to begin with. Like others have pointed out, mining for resources to bring back to earth is completely uneconomical, due to transport costs. And same thing would be the principal problem for most other ventures that involve traffic between earth and moon.

      Some people think settling would help with overpopulation. That's

  • by DailyGrind (456659) on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:08AM (#6075690) Homepage
    a good Chinese restaurant on the moon will fix that little no-food or water problem and make NASA's job so much easier....

  • Let's Help Them Out (Score:5, Interesting)

    by moehoward (668736) on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:08AM (#6075692)
    I think this is great. Yes, I have the typical reservations many will have here (human rights, poverty in China, etc.). However, I support this 100%.

    I really think space is not something that should be done alone by a nation, though. I think we should see how we can help or team up with China in some way. It could be the common bond that finally helps us get over this mini-me cold war that we have going on with them.

    Space exploration should no longer exist as a competitive sport. Write your representatives and let them know that you support US cooperation with China in space.
    • by bjschrock (557973) <{bschrock} {at} {gmail.com}> on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:40AM (#6076008)
      Space exploration should no longer exist as a competitive sport. Write your representatives and let them know that you support US cooperation with China in space.
      A cooperative approach would be nice, but look what competition has gotten us so far: going from the first man-made satellite to walking on the moon in 12 years, with the first powered flight only about 50 years before that. It's been over 30 years since we've been to the moon, isn't it time we go back?
  • Good! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kalimar (42718) on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:08AM (#6075693) Homepage Journal
    Regardless of whether it's 3 years or 10 years, this will be good. One of two things will happen:
    1. The US space program will get a kick in pants (again) to get more manned missions out into the solar system.
    2. The Chinese will fail

    Personally, I'm hoping that only #1 will happen. Competition is good. See what's happened since we lost an 'opponent' in the space race? We've grown complacent. Having another space will be good for just about everything (national pride, the tech sector, the economy in general, innovation, etc).

    • What about #3? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by interactive_civilian (205158) <(mamoru) (at) (gmail.com)> on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:36AM (#6075959) Homepage Journal
      3. The Chinese succeed and leave the US behind in the Space Colonization race.

      In my opinion, this is a distinct possibility. If they have the willpower to do it, they WILL pull it off without US help or competition. Personally, I hope this or some collaborated(sp?) effort is the case because I really want to see more people in space and the expansion of the human race beyond the thin atmosphere between us and the rest of the universe. Granted the moon is just a baby step (and we're talking a baby atom here) on the cosmic scale of things, but we need to start somewhere, and if the currently most active space program on the planet will not do it, then let someone else. We ARE all human here anyway.

      Along these lines, there have been some other posts to this story about the financial problems and the probable lack of commercial return from these ventures. I say to that, Who the hell CARES??? This is the future we are talking about here. This is the possible expansion of the human race. Personally, if I could be around in 20,000 years to see it, I would really like for the Galaxy to be much like Isaac Asimov wrote in his Robot Series and Foundation Series. There is still all of the good and bad of human nature, but we will be free of these earthly bounds and able to go just about anywhere we please.

      Not to sound cheesy (and Trek-y) but Space really is the final frontier, and I think we (as a species) need to get off our lazy earth-bound asses and get out there to see what we can find. We really need to work harder to make science fiction into science reality, IMHO.

      Of course, I really am just a clueless, idealistic dreamer, but perhaps if there were more people like me and less business-y, money grubbing, power hungry jerks in the world then perhaps we would already be out to Mars and on our way to Jupiter, Saturn, or even Proxima-Centauri...

      Sorry for the huge digression and the rant, but whenever I see stories like this and people putting down those who try (not the parent post, but others in this story) it makes me a bit hot-headed (well...the beer helps too).

      "Knowledge is power" - Sir Francis Bacon
      "Imagination is more important than knowledge" - Albert Einstein

      I think the human race needs to take those quotes a bit more to heart. We need both more "small steps for man" and more "giant leaps for mankind".

      Again, sorry for the rant. Goodbye Karma.

  • by grub (11606)

    I could order food from their moonbase and it will still get to my house on earth faster than from the restaurant down the street.
  • Awesome! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jridley (9305) on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:10AM (#6075703)
    I don't care who goes to the moon, as long as someone does. People actually love this kind of stuff, but they're easily distracted. Having a human presence on the moon might get enough people interested again to kickstart the industry.
  • Long Term Plan? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:10AM (#6075708)
    It is said that the Chinese take the long view of things. Perhaps it is true. Anyway, they still have an authoritarian govt, and as such probably still want to conquer the world. A moon base might let them try it -- recall Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", and how "interesting" (per ancient Chinese curse) it might be to be able to throw rocks that can cause as much damage as A-bomb explosions, without the leftover radioactivity.
    • Re:Long Term Plan? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by SunPin (596554) <[moc.atsirebyc] [ta] [mapshsals]> on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:53AM (#6076151) Homepage
      Despite your high moderation, you are still a troll. The Chinese have never tried to conquer the world because it is a fundamental aspect of their culture that China is the center of the universe. They have no useful navy. Exactly how do they plan to conquer the world without one? They had a navy only once, in the 1500s, and it dwarfed anything in Europe at the time. The sole purpose of this navy was to sail the world and tell everyone to stay the fuck out of their way. After they felt the mission was accomplished, the navy was dismantled.

      Get away from your science fiction books and your fake Seven of Nine porn and try to understand something instead of perpetuating the "ignorant American" stereotype.

      There's a reason you posted AC.
  • by kulakovich (580584) <slashdot@@@bonfireproductions...com> on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:11AM (#6075719)
    Anyone not familiar with this Heinlein tome, and who has an interest in the next century should read it.

    Whoever has the moon, has the Earth. If anyone is thinking of entering an expansionist phase, it would behoove them to set up shop there. They are at the top of the gravity well, we're at the bottom.

    I am sure there are /.ers just waiting to rebuke this claim, knock yourselves out. Democracy cannot fight gravity, nor stop a 1/2km bolder travelling at Mach 33 coming down through the atmosphere.

    I like to maintain a positive outlook, but that is much easier with hindsight rather than foresight.

    ]3

    ps - I didn't have anyone in mind when I mentioned entering an expansionist era - if you associated the remark with any particular geopolitical entity, that was your own doing!
    • by Imperator (17614) <slashdot2 AT omershenker DOT net> on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:41AM (#6076014)
      Democracy cannot fight gravity, nor stop a 1/2km bolder travelling at Mach 33 coming down through the atmosphere.

      Nor can democracy stop a thousand nuclear warheads. Come on, why would any nation with the technology to go to the moon and hurl rocks at us not just use nuclear weapons instead? They surely provide far more bang for the buck.

      And what could the moon possibly do for an expansionist nation? Do you have any idea how much it costs to send 1kg to the moon? In human history, expansion has always been driven by quest for resources--whether those resources are wealth (Spain), land (America), natural resources (Japan), or whatever else. But how could the moon provide these things more efficiently than underutilized parts of Earth? I tell you what, it would be a hell of a lot cheaper for the Chinese to send people to shiver in Antarctica than on the moon, and they'd probably get more out of it.

      No, we have nothing to fear from a Chinese base on the moon. Until we have the technology to make transport to and from the moon cheap, it's a useless pile of rock.

      • Nor can democracy stop a thousand nuclear warheads. Come on, why would any nation with the technology to go to the moon and hurl rocks at us not just use nuclear weapons instead? They surely provide far more bang for the buck.

        Within your lifetime, we will have the technology to stop nuclear missles. Look how far we have come with primitive technology like the Patriot Missile. It is unlikely however in your lifetime we will have the technology to stop a 5 million ton rock. There are no theories. We can
      • by sean23007 (143364) on Friday May 30, 2003 @10:03AM (#6076259) Homepage Journal
        The cost to send 1kg to the moon will decrease with constant traffic. Also, and more importantly, the moon is not devoid of desirable resources. There are probably no rocks or metals that would be worth returning to Earth, but it is believed that there is plentiful naturally occurring H3, which should be instrumental in the furthering of fusion energy research. If China could get their hands on that supply of H3, it would be more than worth it to bring it back down to Earth, and there is a nearly infinite power supply sitting there waiting for them to construct a moon base, along with the physical resources that can be mined from the moon itself. And don't forget the fact that the moon has a gravity 1/6 of that of the Earth, so launching missions from there to other parts of the solar system would by much easier than from here. Perhaps shuttle everything essential to the mission to the moon, construct the launch craft at the moon base, and launch without all the gravity. It would definitely be a major advantage, both strategically and financially.

        Never let anyone tell you it isn't worth it to go to the moon.
    • by gosand (234100) on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:50AM (#6076117)
      Anyone not familiar with this Heinlein tome, and who has an interest in the next century should read it. ... Democracy cannot fight gravity, nor stop a 1/2km bolder travelling at Mach 33 coming down through the atmosphere.

      The United States Government's Department of Homeland Security has announced that Robert Heinlein is now wanted under the U.S. Patriot Act for sponsoring terrorism. His idea of using the moon as a base to attack Americans will not be tolerated.

  • Does this remind anyone of a south park episode?
  • We could have done that the technology we had 40 years ago.

    Lookign at teh brighter side, it'll at least put the heat on NASA again. Seeing as how teh Space Program went downhill with teh fall of the USSR, not we have another comunist nation to go up against.

    We can't let those Reds win now can we? (No offence to China)

  • I have to say I am attracted to the idea of an Orbital facility based upon (and hopefully governed by) high tech and ethical principles.

    The idea of 'data haven' facilities is also one with which any reader of SF/Cyberpunk will be familiar, and one that could be very profitable.

    The question of funding is of course the major sticking point.
  • I think china needs the moon to some of their billions of people!

  • by Wonderkid (541329) on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:14AM (#6075740) Homepage
    While competition is good fun when it comes to sport, it is about time the West, in particular the USA stopped believing that every time another entity tries to do something newer, bigger or better that such a step is looked upon as a threat. China has never attacked a Western nation and is trying to open up - in particular since SARS. So, we should be supporting and encouraging them. We have worked pretty well with the Russians, that has paid off with their help since Columbia. So we have learned that if you corner the fox he will bite, but if you pamper him he will lick.
  • No problem (Score:3, Funny)

    by arvindn (542080) on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:14AM (#6075742) Homepage Journal
    The reds are going for a permanent settlement on the moon? No problem. Reagan had it all worked out years ago. [netfunny.com] ;^)
  • by notque (636838) on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:14AM (#6075747) Homepage Journal
    If life is like civilization, as soon as the Chinese make it, our entire society will crumble!

    Since we have about 4 Future Technologies already, I beileve we should launch a full scale attack on China, take our scientific research down to 0% to collect as much gold as possible, and start building our own.

    While we are at it, we probably shouldn't ask for a UN vote, we will surely fail, and lose there too.

    What would be America's best way to win? We've already secured some oil resources, we need to build a harbor!
  • No surprise (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:15AM (#6075761)
    Almost anyone who is a technophile was weaned on stories of colonies on the moon and mars by the new millenium. NASA, for better or for worse, never fullfilled those dreams. But now that some of those technophiles are all grown up and have a billion and a half dollars, it only makes sense that they would start to use their new-found power to realize the dreams of their youth.

    As a fellow dreamer, I can't think of a better outcome to the dotcom-dotbomb cycle than the kick-off of a vibrant commercial space industry. (Well, maybe the immediate cessation of world poverty and the industrial destruction of the environment. But the chances of that happening even with a couple of motivated dotcom dreamers at the helm, are probably close to nil. At least space doesn't have too much in the way of entrenched powers that prefer the status quo.)
  • by Tackhead (54550) on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:17AM (#6075779)
    As a Westerner, I'd prefer that the first lunar colony be American.

    As a Westerner who sadly recognizes the fact that his society has abandoned space exploration and colonization, I'm more than happy for the Chinese lunar colonists. At least some members of homo sapiens will get to leave the rock.

    But as a Westerner who's read Heinlein, I'm pretty sure that sooner or later, those guys are going to end up more free and more happy than their government could ever imagine possible, even in its worst nightmares.

    You go, Chinese guys. More power to ya.

    Heinlein was a starry-eyed optimist to think it could ever happen on Earth, but he had a valid point on Luna - any resource-rich, low-population, but otherwise harsh environment practically necessitates the development of certain cultural norms.

  • Other older articles (Score:3, Informative)

    by KingPrad (518495) on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:18AM (#6075789)
    At the website for Space Policy Digest (now defunct) there are archived articles on the Chinese space programs. The site is here: http://spacepolicy.org/page_archive.html

    One of the most interesting is: "Let's Challenge China to a Space Race"

    http://spacepolicy.org/page_mw0100.html

    But there are a ton of others, all very well written on many aspects of the space program's flaws, successes, interaction with congress, other countries' programs, etc.

  • by borkus (179118) on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:26AM (#6075867) Homepage
    One of the benefits of the Apollo program wasn't just the science done on the moon, but all of the technological innovations that had to be made in order for it to happen. Sure some of those innovations are relatively mundane (like Tempurpedic Mattresses). However, it also helps you build a huge amount of expertise in aerospace and electronics - industries that would help China both commercially and miliatarily.
  • by Markvs (17298) on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:27AM (#6075877) Journal
    This is a nation which still hasn't launched a person into space, let alone have the capacity to go to the moon soon. At the time of the Apollo missions, the US was spending 1% (http://members.aol.com/dsportree/VH04.htm) of the GNP on NASA. The Soviets were probably spending about the same amount of dough. That's was 6 billion in 1967 dollars, or about 32 billion dollars today. Can China afford this? I'm dubious, especially given the current world economy.

    Tack on the expenses both nations had (US with Mercury & Gemini, USSR with the various Vostok missions), and the experience China will have to gain... I'd wager on a 2012 landing and 2020 at best for a permanent base. It will take many heavy-lifting flights to get stuff to the moon, and just one disaster to set back the whole timeframe.

    Further, the natural Chinese economic advantage (lots of cheap labor), is of little value in the aerospace realm. Sure, you can have folks using picks and shovels on a dam along side modern construction equipment. But on a Saturn V/N-1 type rocket? Not likely.

    Can they do it? Sure. So could ESA, Japan and probably a half dozen other nations like Australia, Brazil or India. Will they? Probably, they want the bragging rights. But by 2006? No way.

    • by HarveyBirdman (627248) on Friday May 30, 2003 @10:17AM (#6076407) Journal
      Further, the natural Chinese economic advantage (lots of cheap labor), is of little value in the aerospace realm. Sure, you can have folks using picks and shovels on a dam along side modern construction equipment. But on a Saturn V/N-1 type rocket? Not likely.

      Yeah, but they have the labor to build so many bad rockets, all they'd have to do is stack them up and climb to the moon. :-)

  • by notestein (445412) on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:34AM (#6075935) Homepage Journal
    There are only a few reasons to go to the Moon that I can see.

    1. Scientific. These are pretty weak. Some nice radio and optical telescopes could be set up on the dark side. However, the next Space Telescope will be placed at Lagrange Point 2. That's pretty clean from Earthly interference and cheaper than the Moon. Exploration? Really, what are we going to find that will be useful that can not be done robotically?

    2. Commercial. The solar cell idea is just stupid. Stick with Nuclear here on earth. Cheap, clean, and practically infinite. Maybe, someday, fusion will displace it. If so, H3 mining might be a winner for being on the Moon. I'm sure that will drive the Moon environmentalists up a tree. (hee hee). I can just see the protestors and signs now, "Stop Strip Mining the Moon! It's destroying the view from the earth for Spotted Owls." If we could ever make the per pound (screw you metric guys) cost to high orbit cheap enough... vacations would be a good reason to put up a colony. Just look at Vegas and Cancun. There's some serious scratch.

    3. Political. That's why we (the US) went the first time. That's what the Chinese are up too. The US may have to do it just to keep the Chinese from being the only ones there. National pride can be an odd thing.

    But the biggest political reason will be to get the fuck off Earth. That may be a while. Or a well funded cult may be the first to go. Too bad the Hal Bop guys are gone. It's easier to catch a lift on a Comet from the low gee of the Moon.

  • by twoslice (457793) on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:37AM (#6075972)
    That Chinese will be the official language of the moon? and can you image the extremely slo-mo ping pong games that would be played?
  • by truenoir (604083) on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:37AM (#6075980)
    Will they all soon say "Made on the Moon" ? ;p
  • Good luck (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ravagin (100668) on Friday May 30, 2003 @09:39AM (#6075995)

    I recommed the article U.S. 'negation' policy in space raises concerns abroad [eetimes.com]. Space is the next frontier for US military dominance. NASA may have been gutted, but now the government is realizing it can enhance its control over the world if it has space. This means denying everyone else access to space - so I won't be surprised if the US govt starts painting the Chinese (dirty commies! watch out! coughbullshitcough) space program as a serious military threat.

    (Missile shield? Missile shield? Hell, son, we need orbital weapons platforms all around the world! We need to be able to shut down military operations by rogue states and terr'ists anywhere on the globe! Hot damn, we need nukes on the moon!)

  • values (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sstory (538486) on Friday May 30, 2003 @10:04AM (#6076263) Homepage
    It would mean more to the lives of their citizens and eventually the world if they spent the money on bioengineering, medicine, genetic modification of crops, training their people in science and engineering, IT, and such. Space is a less efficient expenditure of resources, despite how cool and prestigious it is.
  • by sweatyboatman (457800) <sweatyboatman@hot m a i l . c om> on Friday May 30, 2003 @10:06AM (#6076294) Homepage Journal
    Okay, USA sent men to the moon way back when. It was basically pointless. We haven't been back to the moon because there's nothing to do there except collect samples and plant flags.

    At my Washington office a few weeks ago, I met with a visiting Japanese parliamentarian who specializes in science and technology issues... In his view, the Chinese would be on the moon within three to four years.

    • parliamentarian
      1. One who is expert in parliamentary procedures, rules, or debate.
      2. A member of a parliament.
      3. Parliamentarian A supporter of the Long Parliament during the English Civil War and the Commonwealth; a Roundhead.

    this is the only evidence he offers that China is even thinking of going to the moon. some random Chinese dude? well, I'm convinced, let's start a space race.

    Bob Walker man must be a real patriot to be so concerned about the plight of America's space prestige. Who is this great thinker? oh wait... Bob Walker is a corporate lobbyist. For who? For these guys [wexlergroup.com]. Nice list of clientelle. I wonder if any of those people would benefit from increased public paranoia about a foreign space program?

    -sweatyb
  • by Allen Varney (449382) on Friday May 30, 2003 @10:18AM (#6076420) Homepage

    Bruce Sterling wrote an interesting Wired column [wired.com] about the budding Cold War between India and China. Sterling reminds us that India is also interested in a space program, largely for the same reasons America was: symbolism and prestige.

    As Pakistan weakens, India is starting to view China as its principal rival for South Asian hegemony. "India and China are comers with a lot to prove to the world, and especially to each other," Sterling writes. "Nuclear India versus nuclear China is Kennedy versus Kruschev, and Reagan versus Gorbachev, all over again. Now, as then, a space race is a sexy alternative to nuclear annihilation.

    "China has openly declared its desire to colonize the moon. The world's most populous nation is unlikely to build lunar settlements, but that's not the point. China's motive lies not in constructing a lunar Hong Kong, but rather in luring India into a loud public competition. Later this year, if all goes as planned, China will become the third country to send a citizen into space. An orbiting taikonaut will be even more impressive if American shuttles are stuck in their hangars while the misnamed International Space Station limps along with a skeleton crew."

    Sterling's conclusion sent a shudder of surprising revulsion through me: "A decade after the end of the Cold War, good old-fashioned space programs still matter. Not for exploration's sake, but to settle new cold wars. If you doubt it, imagine this scenario: It's 2029, and a lunar mission lands at Tranquillity Base. A crew of heroic young Indians - or Chinese - quietly folds and puts away America's 60-year-old flag. If the world saw that on television, wouldn't the gesture be worth tens of billions of rupees or yuan? Of course it would."

  • by reallocate (142797) on Friday May 30, 2003 @10:41AM (#6076656)
    Along these lines, SpaceDaily carries an excellent opinion piece today: "The Failure of NASA: And A Way Out" [spacedaily.com]

    Here's the theme: NASA's human space flight efforts have been going downhill since the end of the big Apollo budget bubble (1966) and need to be replaced by an agency that concentrates on enabling private sector human space flight.

    Best quote: " After wasting three decades (and a perfectly good Cold War), frustrating the dreams of a whole generation of space enthusiasts, and spending hundreds of billions of dollars, NASA's net achievement is a space station that has no definable purpose except to serve as a destination for shuttle flights.

    We would not need the shuttle missions if we did not have the station, and we would not need the station if we did not need something for the shuttles to do. The entire human spaceflight program has thus become an exercise in futility.
    "

    I take this with a grain of salt: There's money to be made, maybe, doing things in LEO and on the moon, but we'll still need someone to fund and operate the necessary but unprofitable initial human explorations of the planets. An analogy might be drawn to the efforts directed by Prince Henry the Navigator.
  • by caffeinex36 (608768) on Friday May 30, 2003 @11:29AM (#6077206)
    ..becuase I am the proud owner of 2 whole acres of the moon.

    What do you think taxes are going to be like....or am I behind already?

  • by Chairboy (88841) on Friday May 30, 2003 @11:37AM (#6077296) Homepage
    "Wernher Von Braun" by Tom Lehrer (as recorded in 1965):

    (spoken introduction)

    What is it that put America in the forefront of the nuclear nations? And
    what is it that will make it possible to spend $20 billion of your money
    to put some clown on the moon? Well, it was good old American know-how
    that's what, as provided by good old Americans like Dr. Wernher Von
    Braun.

    (breaks into song)

    Gather round while I sing you of Wernher Von Braun
    A man whose allegiance is ruled by expedience.
    Call him a Nazi, he won't even frown
    "Ha, Nazi schmazi", says Wernher Von Braun.

    Don't say that he's hypocritical
    Say rather that he's apolitical.
    "Once the rockets are up who cares where they come down,
    That's not my department" says Wernher Von Braun.

    Some have harsh words for this man of renown
    But some think our attitude should be one of gratitude.
    Like the widows & cripples in old London town
    Who owe their large pensions to Wernher Von Braun.

    You too may be a big hero
    Once you've learnt to count backwards to zero.
    "In German or English I know how to count down,
    Und I'm learning Chinese" says Wernher Von Braun.
  • I give them about 3 years before they've either made good on their threats and actualy seem to be going after this goal, or are shown to have simply issued another boast.

    If in 3 years they have indeed begun the initiative to colonize the moon, you can be certain the US will get off it's collective ass and either infuse NASA with massive amounts of bucks and initiative, or simply kill them and replace them with a new goverment entity to acomplish the same goal.

    there are two reasons for this.. A: if china sets up a weapons base on the moon we would be at a serious disadvantage the moment they develop anti-ICBM type defenses. Although this isnt near to happening now... it is an inevitability as far as the progression of tech in nearly all major societies.

    The second reason... The US has one of the greatest attitudes possesed by man. Out right jealousy. If they do it, then we damn well WILL do it too AND better. Who cares about the expense... it's important simply because it is.

    The reason NASA is grounded right now ISNT because they fucked up.... it's cause they fucked up and dont have much of a purpose thats beneficial to the miltary/social/economical intrests of the US corporations or populace. Put china upstairs.... and you can garentee our space program will geta shot in the arm well beyond anything we could imagine about the star wars project or otherwise.

    nothing like good old economic/political rivalry to get the inovation engines running.

  • This is a great thing, and I hope China does it sooner rather than later, because maybe it would be another "Sputnik" event which would jolt America into getting serious about space and not twiddling around with a useless space station.

    China is clever: they clearly want to not compete with us in "traditional" tech stuff but leapfrog into the Next Big Thing right away so they are well established when the rest of the world ctaches up. Maybe theyre' working just as hard on Nanotech.

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