No, China Isn’t Restarting the Space Race


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It’s not for lack of trying. It’s that there can’t be a race when Obama has scrapped the space program so that Elon Musk can find another way to cash in besides Tesla’s subsidized electric cars.

China is interested in the moon. India is interested in the moon. The United States is interested in Obama.

Glenn Reynolds wonders in the pages of USA Today whether China might want to make a territorial  claim on the moon. The answer is probably. China is practical and if it takes the time to go to the moon, it’s going to try and do something useful while there.

October Sky author Homer Hickam was more excited. He wondered on Twitter if China might want to make a territorial claim on the moon, noting that the area the lander is exploring may contain an abundance of Helium-3, a potentially valuable fusion energy fuel that is found only on the moon. According to former astronaut/geologist Harrison Schmitt, China “has made no secret” of its interest in Helium-3. Schmitt observes, “I would assume that this mission is both a geopolitical statement and a test of some hardware and software related to mining and processing of the lunar regolith.”

Followed by a mining claim, perhaps. Is that possible? Well, China seems pretty big on making territorial claims lately. And, really, there’s not a lot to stop them.

First, the treaty only prohibits “national appropriation.” If a Chinese company, instead of the Chinese government, were to stake a claim, it wouldn’t apply. And, at any rate, China — which didn’t even join the treaty until 1983 — can, like any other nation, withdraw at any time. All that’s required under the treaty is to give a year’s notice.

Glenn is optimistic that American companies will follow. But China isn’t doing anything that we couldn’t have done for decades. We’ve chosen not to have any long range plan for exploiting the moon. We’ve even crippled our deep sea mining by allowing the UN to claim profits from it.

Nor do we have a long range plan for the solar system or even for getting to orbit. We’re satisfied with privatizing what was already a faint shadow of the golden age of space exploration, launching satellites and ferrying the occasional billionaire space tourist for a few days of blowing his nose in weightlessness, and tossing what’s left of the NASA industrial contractor network a bone with an occasional robot probe.

It’s a safe bet that China has a long term plan. We don’t.

Maybe Chinese exploration and exploitation will shake loose a Sputnik event. But that doesn’t seem likely right now. The deeper problem is that unlike our explorer ancestors, we divorced exploration from exploitation.

That was a fatal idealistic mistake that doomed the whole enterprise. It’s not a mistake that China is likely to make.

  • DogmaelJones1

    That “rover” looks suspiciously like one of our Martian Rovers. The technology for it was either stolen from the JPL, or NASA sold the Chinese the specs to it, or helped them in some way. If that’s true, it could be seen as another aspect of Obama’s NASA outreach program.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Most likely

      • DogmaelJones1

        Couldn’t they find a more “realistic” costume for the guy, at least? He looks like he’s swathed in a curtain sample from Wal-Mart. Add a mask, and he’d be taken for a terrorist. Then he’d be the “Green Jihadi.”

        • Daniel Greenfield

          The budget clearly didn’t go to costumes.

      • DogmaelJones1

        Never mind my reply below. Wrong article. That was about the Green Ninji creature of NASA’s.

    • SCREW SOCIALISM

      The failed soviet empire copied the US Space Shuttle.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buran_%28spacecraft%29

      Look at the pix.

      Obama care more about bowing to tyrants like raul castro and saudi kings than making America a world leader.

  • Explorer08

    The author said, “…so that Elon Musk can find another way to cash in besides Tesla’s subsidized electric cars.” That’s a bit nasty, don’t you think, since Musk actually made his real fortune from PayPal. I don’t mind the Obama comment but Musk deserves a LOT of credit as a true capitalist having made his fortune the hard way: by working.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      He deserves credit for PayPal, not for his post PayPal rent seeking

  • truebearing

    China exploring and exploiting Space…so the Borg do live.

  • GSR

    Our country couldn’t even if it wanted to (go back to the Moon or even Mars). We chose “diversity” over being a meritocracy. Thus we import the 3rd world, dumb-down our schools and spend all our time discussing health insurance. We are kaput.

  • Hass

    Of course not, Osama is too busy directing NASA to promote Islam, and for what? I don’t know, as I’m yet to read just exactly what it is they are contributing.

  • diklik

    The film is fake.

    Seriously. China? China coudn’t make a riceball with rice. Incompetent as a yellow squirril.