Last week, President Trump signed a presidential memorandum ordering NASA to send astronauts to the moon for long-term exploration and to prepare for the long-awaited manned mission of Mars. The importance of the directive is not clear, however, since it comes without a clear budget or strategy.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, China has been making some ambitious space plans backed by multi-step procedures and lots of money. In the file: reusable spatial planes, nuclear-powered spacecraft and robotic lunar bases.
The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) plans to fly its reusable space plane for the first time in 2020 and carry it out with taikonauts. and load in space by 2025. Chen Hongbo, director of research and development at the Chinese Technology Launch Academy (a subsidiary of CASC), told the official Xinhua News Agency that the two-stage space plane would be rocket-propelled principle and will be able to fly off a track at hypersonic speeds up close to space. Then it would separate a reusable second-stage rocket that would carry passengers and cargo and reach an altitude of 180-310 miles in orbit. In line with previous spacecraft plans, CASC will launch a scramjet-driven version of the first transport stage by 2030, thus increasing the payload of the second stage.
The CASC program has competition, however. Deputy Director Liu Shiquan of the rivalry of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) said his own space program had a good start, with engines and other core technologies in advanced testing.
CASC also has equally ambitious plans for space exploration. The key between these plans is for a nuclear-powered spacecraft, which is scheduled to go into service in 2040, probably to support a Chinese manned martian mission. CASC also has plans for China to participate in the deep-space economic activity, such as the construction of solar energy plants in orbit and the mining of asteroids and the moon.
To launch the thousands of tons of cargo needed to execute these plans, CASC plans to make its rockets fully reusable by 2035, from the small Long March 6 to the giant Long March 5. The Long March 4B will test the fins of the network in 2019 (grid flaps in reusable rockets such as the SpaceX Falcon are used to control the flight during the high-speed portion of the descent phase) and to land a Long March 6 rocket vertically in 2020.
Plans similar in the USA UU they depend on a new class of private launch companies, owned by technological billionaires. These companies also have competition in China. The Chinese company of launching private spaces Link Space is also betting on reusable rockets. Its New Line 1 rocket, a 33-tonne spacecraft that can launch a 440-pound payload into the sun's synchronous orbit, will theoretically have a first stage vertically landed. In addition, the company has already tested its rocket motors more than 200 times, making good progress in plans for a first launch of the New Line 1 in 2020.
Also, the heavy March 9, which can transport 130 tons to the low earth orbit, or 50 tons in the lunar orbit, will make its first flight in 2030. The long March 9 will likely be used for manned missions to the moon, as well as the installation of orbital solar power plants. Its massive cargo capacity would also support Chinese plans to explore Jupiter, Saturn and its moons, and other celestial objects beyond the asteroid belt.
The enormous payload of the Gran Marche 9 could be useful to create a base on the Moon as well. It is likely to be a robotic installation; a manned base would cost much more. Jiao Weixin of Peking University says that a robot base dug into the lunar surface, unlike lunar rovers and landing modules, could perform more sophisticated scientific tests of lunar soil and send samples of lunar rock economically.
Investigate and operate all this is very expensive, but it is clear that China sees the new space race as a way to gain a lot of prestige. To these new plans will be added the already wide range of China's space offerings, which include navigation and spy satellites, a vibrant hypersonic technology industry and a growing robotics and artificial intelligence industries.
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Peter Warren Singer is a strategist and a senior partner in the New America Foundation. He has been named by Defense News as one of the 100 most influential people in defense matters. He was also nicknamed as an official "Mad Scientist" for the US Army Training and Doctrine Command. UU Jeffrey is a national security professional in the area of D.C.