When I was 6 years old, I watched the first American Astronauts land on the moon, on television. That was back on July 20th in 1969 and I knew at a young age it was a very big deal.
My uncle, told me that I was watching history being made. Now nearly 48 years later America has its sights on a manned mission to Mars.
China on the other hand has a goal of a manned lunar landing. That would seem decades behind America but the Chinese are now moving fast to catch up to America’s current technology.
Over the next ten years, China intends, to dominate the space race, create new technologies, and outpace competitors like SpaceX and NASA.
They plan not only to catch up to America’s technological achievements but to overtake us with space exploration. Their plans include a dozen or so scientific experiments, and launching new robotic missions to the moon.
They are currently planning a robotic lunar landing in 2017 to collect lunar samples, then a return trip the following year to land on the unexplored far side of the moon.
China’s National Space Administration has just recently announced that it will carry out robotic exploration of the south and north poles of the moon twice in the next five to ten years.
For most people reading this, China’s lunar missions are no big deal. But these are just small steps toward bigger and loftier goals for China.
My students at the Suzhou International Foreign Language School in Suzhou, China – like to point out how far behind China is to America, especially, when it comes to space exploration. I like to tell them that both America and China have their sights on Mars. Our two Nations have a goal, of a manned mission to Mars. That will become the next historical space race.
Technologically speaking America might now be far ahead of China. But the Chinese are putting a lot more money into their National Space Administration. This comes at a time when America is cutting its funding to NASA. This will give the Chinese an edge in catching up to America’s technological achievements.
The Chinese have announced plans to launch its first probe to Mars in 2020, including an orbiter, a lander, and a rover. Later, China intends to return to the Red Planet to collect surface samples. It also hopes to explore the asteroid belt and the Jupiter system.
The Chinese will also search for extraterrestrial life, most people in China, just like in America, believe in the possibility of intelligent life on other planets. China would like to be the first in proving they exist.
Most of my students believe in Extraterrestrial life and some of them even believe they visit earth. I like to tell my students that I believe in extraterrestrials too but we here on Earth are too far away for them to visit us.
China has many other lofty goals for the next decade such as a - non-toxic and pollution-free - launch vehicles for carrying payloads into outer space, detecting anti-matter, and studying global climate change and natural disasters.
China may be lagging behind America at present, especially, in terms of technology. But due to China’s large budget being used to fund China’s National Space Administration they could catch up to us. However, I don’t see that happening in the next decade.
I don’t see a future space race, between China and the US, as a negative thing. I see it as a positive endeavor, towards a greater understanding of our Universe and the secrets it holds.
Who will be the first people to land on the Red Planet?
I say they will be Americans but only time will tell …..
- Always with love from Suzhou, China
Thomas F O’Neill
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