Griffin: China Could Beat US in Moon Race

More bad news for NASA: even their administrator thinks China could beat the US to the Moon. Speaking with the BBC today, Michael Griffin shared his views about the Chinese space aspirations, pointing out that the super-state could, if they wanted to, send a manned mission to the lunar surface within a decade. NASA’s return mission to the Moon is planned to launch, at the earliest, in 2020, so this news is bound to knock the wind out of the US space agency’s hopes to continue where it left off in 1972…

In the last five years, China has been teetering on the edge of a full-manned space program. In 2003, the nation became only the third country to put a national into space (following the Russia and the USA), blasting Yang Liwei into orbit for 21 hours on the Shenzhou 5 spacecraft. Shenzhou 6 was launched with two astronauts (or “taikonauts”) on board, spending five days orbiting the Earth in 2005. This year, shortly after the Beijing Olympics in October, China is sending another manned mission into orbit, only this time it is hoped a spacewalk will be possible. With this rapid succession of successful manned launches, it comes as no surprise that attention is swinging away from NASA and to China for the next big step into space.

The last time man set foot on the Moon was in 1972 when Eugene Andrew Cernan, last man on the Moon, boarded the Apollo 17 lunar module. That was 36 years ago and space flight has changed significantly since then, now NASA has more competition, as highlighted by Griffin during a visit to London:

Certainly it is possible that if China wants to put people on the Moon, and if it wishes to do so before the United States, it certainly can. As a matter of technical capability, it absolutely can.” – Dr Michael Griffin

As to whether it actually matters whether China are the next to land on the Moon is open to interpretation. After all, the first nation to set foot on Earth’s natural satellite was the USA, so is a return trip a big psychological “victory” for China? “I’m not a psychologist, so I can’t say if it matters or not. That would just be an opinion and I don’t want to air an opinion in an area that I’m not qualified to discuss,” Griffin added.

Recently, there has been increased cooperation between the US and China when sharing science and information. “We do have some early co-operative initiatives that we are trying to put in place with China, mostly centred around scientific enterprises. I think that’s a great place to start,” he said. Although many will view an early Chinese lunar mission as a NASA failure, both nations appear to be trying to forge close relationships that could possibly lead to joint space missions in the future. After all, even at the peak of the Cold War, the US and Russia began working on a common goal.

I think we’re always better off if we can find areas where we can collaborate rather than quarrel. I would remind your [audience] that the first US-Soviet human co-operation took place in 1975, virtually at the height of the Cold War. And it led, 18 years later, to discussions about an International Space Station (ISS) programme in which we’re now involved.” – Dr Michael Griffin

Regardless of who gets to the Moon first, Griffin will be feeling the pressure of the “five-year gap” between the Shuttle being retired in 2010 and Constellation completion in 2015, there is still little alternative than relying on Russia and Europe for US access to space. Griffin has tried to increase Constellation funding by $2bn to bring completion forward by a year, but the application was quickly turned down by Congress. Those five long years may be more costly than the US government realizes as NASA loses more footing in manned access to space…

Source: BBC

35 Replies to “Griffin: China Could Beat US in Moon Race”

  1. Thats not exciting. I mean, China ?? I’m not an American. I’m just an Indian. But I’d always prefer the US to China. China lacks transparency and in plain words, sucks. I can’t think of them being a world super power. Think of all the shit they’ll do.

    P.S: I’m not against any Chinese guy. I’m just not a fan of the Chinese Govt policies and the “iron curtain” in their affairs.

  2. Perhaps the US could make it to the Moon quicker if they asked the Europeans to shoulder some of the costs?

    Right….ISS all over again.

  3. As the old saying goes, two heads are better than one. Work together for the benefit of present and future generations. I know you can

  4. N/A

    I respect on China very much!

    Co’se all thespace exploration were under their own intelligence and funds. Another, all the achievement were peaceful of civilian use, not like USA. They are aim of invades. So for China or whold, It is different between any of the country in the world! It is a great success!

    I never compare China and India, It is not worthy to do that so. China is a giant and obviously India is nothing—Lag of the world development…..

  5. The US carbon copies;) have their priorities completely wrong after the end of the Apollo program. IRAQ costs 100 times more than a an accelerated space program to have a permanent habitat on the moon. And yes, this should be done together with the EU and Japan, possibly Russia within the next 5 years, period.
    China can only be strong if the rest of you are divided…
    The carbon copies of this planet have no choice in the long run, to go out and find new places to live, preferably so that the environment is not damaged like on EARTH.

  6. I respect on China very much!

    Co’se all thespace exploration were under their own intelligence and funds. It is different between any of the country in the world! It is a great success!

    I never compare China and India, It is not worthy to do that so. China is a giant and obviously India is nothing—Lag of the world development…..

  7. I prefer to see China’s efforts focused on science, and sending someone to the moon, than on Taiwan or some other violent action.

    Perhaps more space interest in China could spawn a huge amount of new scientist/astronomers to increase our knowledge and new research vehicles.

    To me, once an individual begins to get a grasp on where Earth sits with the rest of the universe… they begin to realize just how small they and their problems really are; thus taking a less narcissitic view of things.

    In short… I don’t see anything bad coming from China getting to the moon before NASA.

  8. I just don’t see the necessity for a permanent presence on the moon. So we can use it as a “jumping off point”? To where? What have we discovered anywhere in the Solar System that we have to send a man to investigate? Until we actually find life on another planet or moon, a sophisticated rover will do just fine. I mean, can you really expect the public to get all excited about sending men to a world that has been shown to be completely dead? And how do you justify the expense? Pride may serve as an excuse for awhile but it’s not enough to sustain a program (see Apollo). Let’s skip the moon, develop new propulsion systems and do some real science.

  9. Setting up on the moon is plain & simply the next logical step for humanity. One way or another, mankind’s assurance at continued existance relies on our ability to go out into space. Current events, daily issues & shortsightedness put a dampening on the fact, but a fact it remains. Be it our effect on this planet, a hypothetical cosmic bombardment of radiation our planet cannot handle, a killer asteroid or a series of them, or even looking ahead to the death of our Sun, Earth will eventually be lost to us and unless we can get off the planet our little blip of life in the universe will vanish. It just stinks that politics & money will remain driving factors in all we do for some time to come.

    Direct to the story, though; So what if China lands on the Moon before WE do AGAIN? What will that effect?

  10. The space race is over. Who cares if China goes to the moon? Setting up a camp on the moon for a few people to hunker down in is a waste of money.

    The talk of sending people out to protect our species from some killer asteroid is nonsense. Without an atmosphere to protect them, the people sent to the moon will be subject to much higher risks of death from meteor impact. Or maybe we should have them dig some really deep hole on this dead body in space and exist in there. There’s a nice thought. They could send someone out periodically to pick up the supplies we send them.

    What ever beings are left on the Earth in 4 billion years when the sun bloats will hardly be human. Let’s worry about feeding, providing clean water, housing, educating, providing health care and education to the humans who are trying to live now.

  11. what race? i haven’t heard we’re racing China to the moon. First, we’ve been there already. Second, don’t think the general public has been told we’re trying to beat the Chinese to the moon.

    In the US we have a war on two fronts, a presidential election, a stagnant economy, high fuel prices and a push towards being green. If I were the president, I would raise NASA’s budget 10x, but in reality, our space presence isn’t even close to being on the radar.

  12. @Dave

    Space exploration is education. Education of the finest degree in science, research, mechanics, theory. Nasa creates jobs, it teaches people and most importantly it inspires people. That is what humanity is about. The ability to dream and the ability to inspire. The basics are always important but we shouldn’t limit ourselves to the basic struggles of living day to day but instead give people hope, dreams and inspiration to push the boundaries of humanity beyond our pale blue dot.

  13. Go China Go and good luck – I hope they do and show up all these so called technological countries. The UK gave up spaceflight years ago, the US just fanny about and the Russians are just chucking it all away and as for Europe.
    I want to see real exploration and real spacecraft and a real space race.
    The Chinese could have gone to the moon in the 16th Century if they had not turned there back on the world in the 1490’s, They will make up for lost ground.
    It will serve the US right if China gets there.

  14. The whole thing seems like a flashback to the psychological race to the moon. “Who will get there first” was the question masking the real question, “Who will make bigger missles that can kill more people.” To continue this business of assigning competition to explore space ignores the fundamental point that space exploration ultimately is a human endeavor shared by everyone. That China is threatening the USA’s psyche is a further commentary on a changing global situation where we must learn to share limited resources. Knowledge seems to fit the bill as a limited resource. Not everyone has the same amounts of it due to economics. So why don’t we figure out some common ground and learn more about space?

    So yeah, Byron, “Space exploration is education. Education of the finest degree in science, research, mechanics, theory.” I just missed the point where NASA has the corner on the market of something that is of the finest degree. If it’s of the finest degree, of the first order, then it ranks up there with say, everyone having enough food, good health, quality of life. So we out to figure out a way for everyone to share in it.

  15. The article is misleading. The US has already been to the moon. The year was 1969. If China makes it to the moon in a decade, they will have landed ~40 years later.
    The US is not in a race. When there was a race, the US did it, start to finish in 8 years. But why not wait until the Orion project is ready, rather than building everything faster (ie less safe).
    So the corrected article title is: Griffin: China Could Be 2nd in Moon Race
    The accomplishment in itself is admirable. I truly wish the US would stop nosing around with enforcing law on others and spend the money on scientific endeavors. Heck, sometimes I wish the US would stop giving free foriegn aid away and instead spend it at home, but helping out others is a good thing in most instances.

  16. Well thak you Bill Clinton and Loral Space for letting the Reds get hold of our missile technology! See what it has produced? Before ‘the accident” they could not hit the broad side of a barn with a nuke nor could they threaten the mid-eastern US. A few campaign donations later and not only has that problem been rectified thay are targeting men on the moon before us!

    And to hell with the notion of “cooperating” with them or citing our “cooperation” with the Soviets. Remember, that cooperation only came about AFTER they were roundly beaten in the race to the moon, during the Skylab era and not before. Furthermore, that was foisted upn NASA at the expense of Apollos 18, 19, & 20. Stupid politicians!

    The Chicoms need to be similarly beaten in getting back to the moon (and at any other level of competition) as well. Then let them cooperate with us (the US). The renewed space race would prove to be a boon to the economy as well as for jobs.

  17. I think this is awesome. Hopefully this will inspire a new space race that will push NASA to not just return to the moon but to push newer and bigger projects forward.

  18. We have never been on the Moon.

    Hollywood filmed Apollo missions and “landing” on the Moon during the late ’60 and early ’70 in the last century.


    I would opt for Chinese to be first to send man on the Moon, although I’m an american citizen. Because I’m fed up with criminal, anti-democratic, anti-human politics of the U.S. goverment, full of liars, corrupted politicians, bankers mafia.

    China go go!

  19. Why in every discussion on return to moon will ALWAYS appear some crackpot idiot with claim that we never been on moon?

    Yeah, this is rhetoric question…

  20. It is just a technology advancement for countries to practise landing on moon. Whether it is 40 years or 60 years later, there will be a third and fourth country starting to follow landing humans on moon.It is not a race.Moon is just a space technology starting point. What I would like to see is that dont ever damage the moon as what we all have done on earth.History tells us that humans will only cooperate, during emergency needs. Thats humans.

  21. Startup the Russian Energia production line again and we could be there in a handful of years. Cancelling the SaturnV in favor of the shuttle was truly one of the great tragedies of the 20th century — there were SO MANY plans for upgrades, thrust augmentation with SRBs, stretching, we had already invented the whole smash. Thank you Richard M. Nixon, who wanted to erase Kennedy’s legacy.

  22. Huron proposed:
    July 15th, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    “Perhaps the US could make it to the Moon quicker if they asked the Europeans to shoulder some of the costs?”

    Forget it. The German minister of economic affairs Michael Glos (CSU) just canceled the German Lunar Exploration Orbiter (LEO).

    The costs of the mission are now assigned to his home federal state Bavaria and will be used to extend the Center for Automation and Robotics in Oberpfaffenhofen, where also the German Aerospace Organization DLR is located. They have election campaign times in Bavaria.

  23. Holla Realista, don’t talk to anybody about this!

    If you should ever get bored by your highly elaborated conspiracy theory about men on the moon, then look at this:

  24. I will never forget the slaughter that happened after the protests at the Gate of Heavenly Peace in 1989 and I am no friend of the oppressors of the Chinese people who rule with fists of irons. But the space race is over. It was so much nonsense, a Great Distraction. It would be insane to start it up again.

    In space exploration, I wish all nations well and Godspeed. There is room in space for us all. I would prefer it was a coordinated international effort, somewhat like the ISS but with the way the present regime has stained the reputation of the U.S., I understand that can be impossible. But no more “space races”. This mad competitiveness will be our undoing as a species.

  25. I’m sorry but I fail to see how China landing on the moon 40+ years after America is a race.

  26. I am opposed to the US spending my money to go to the moon. If China gets there before we do again, so be it, let them waste their resources.

    I agree with having NASA to protect US interests in space and putting payloads, like satelites, into orbit.

    But, with today’s rockets and equipment, going to the moon & beyond does not make sense. It costs to much and there is no return on the investment. The same argument applies to going to Mars.

    Maybe if NASA invented a new low cost propulsion system, it might make sense. But not now.

    I am a US citizen who opposes the wasteful spending in the federal, state, and local governments. We could probably do better if ~2/3’s of the spending was eliminated.

    Vernon Hills, Illinios USA

  27. “If China gets there before we do again, so be it, let them waste their resources.”

    How to distinguish between “their resources” and “our resources”? America’s economy sells 700 billion dollars each year to import over 70 % of the oil it consumes.

    So says T. Boone Pickens in
    4 % of the world population consumes 25 % of it’s energy.

    That’s enough spending, enough even to settle on Pluto.

    You say “I am opposed to the US spending my money to go to the moon.”

    I agree. Better spend your money on driving a SUV which consumes 25 liters of fuel per 100 km from the shopping mall round the corner back to your living room. (which seem to be basic US interests) And don’t forget to let your engine running outside during shopping

  28. mike Says: “I’m sorry but I fail to see how China landing on the moon 40+ years after America is a race.”

    We’re, urm, pushing to LAP them?

    ba’dum, ching!

  29. Who cares if China, Russia or any other nation sets up shop there first?
    Hmmm…me thinks we are not considering the strategic implications; remember the Cuban missile crises?

  30. if some important substance is discovered on the moon, what will we do if china says “I got here first and the moon is china’s!” what then? maybe international agreements need to be made in advance now!

  31. Griffin is intent on wasting taxpayer dollars on a drawn out effort to re-reach the moon. NASA should never have dropped its plans to visit Mars so it can make a redundant publicity run for the moon. He’s also spent taxpayer money to publish a book of his own speeches.

    China WILL beat us to the moon in a new moon race, thanks to Griffin. Ironic.

    Griffin has politicized NASA and dodges accountability as his inexplicable outbursts this year have shown. The bottom line is Griffin doesn’t understand that he works for America, not the other way around.

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