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US, China competing for the Moon, Russia out of space race

Author : Idnes.cz Czech media outlet

Source : Idnes.cz

The year 2020 passed under the sign of the coronavirus pandemic. But, despite this, 2020 has become one of the most successful years in astronautics. The number of space launches has exceeded a hundred, and research missions have succeeded. If we carefully analyze the statistics, we can get an idea of ​​the success of individual states
18:45, 3 February 2021

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The dominance of China, with which only the American private company SpaceX is able to compete, is immediately obvious. This advantage is not accidental. China's space program began later, in the 1960s, and had mostly strategic and defensive goals. In other words, China needed its own missile carrier for nuclear warheads. After the end of the Cold War, the political system of the world changed, and the economic situation in China improved, allowing the country's leadership to let go and focus on research.

Related: Ukrainian govt approves concept of country's space program for 2021-2025

China: concept and plan

China is gradually catching up with its rivals in space exploration, and in some respects even surpasses them. At the end of 2020, China managed to deliver samples from the Moon to Earth, which no one has been able to do for 44 years! A network of meteorological and navigation satellites is being formed to ensure China's independence. But the most important thing in all this is the concept. Unlike other space powers, China has a clear and long-term plan, according to which it achieves certain goals, almost without deviating from the schedule.

But in the United States, the direction of astronautics changes with each new president, which in the long run hinders technological development. For example, Barack Obama canceled his predecessor's ambitious plans to return Americans to the moon and preferred developments to observe the Earth and invest in private entities. In the end, it benefited the United States, as private companies such as SpaceX had the money to develop their own reusable rockets. But, on the other hand, it has greatly slowed down the development of infrastructure to return to the moon.

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The next president, Donald Trump, decided to rectify the situation. He managed to start the successor program of the lunar programs "Apollo – Artemis." The goal is clear – to return man to the moon. But this time we are not talking about short visits, but about building a whole base on the surface of the moon. They are counting on the help of private entities, as well as on the new Gateway space laboratory near our natural satellite. However, the program has faced a number of problems, due to which there are constant delays and rising costs. The deadline for 2024, the Americans will not exactly fit.

Biden’s policy

Now Joe Biden has come to power, who, as you know, is not particularly enthusiastic about the space program, so it is unclear how he will react to NASA's goals. Personally, I predict a reduction in NASA's budget and further delays. At the same time, China has been confidently following the planned path all these years and is gradually approaching the goal of sending its astronauts to the moon. If there are regular delays in the Artemis program, it is possible that the Chinese will land on the moon earlier than the Americans.

Of course, you should also monitor the work of private companies, especially SpaceX American entrepreneur and visionary Elon Musk and Blue Origin Jeff Bezos. SpaceX is creating a controversial Starlink mega-network in orbit to cover the Earth's global Internet with 12,000 satellites. The second company will try to create a smaller network later. Both companies are working with NASA on a return program to the moon.

Related: SpaceX wins $150 million contract from US Department of Defense

But their main contribution is to reduce the cost of transporting one kilogram into space and increase the availability of services for a wide range of customers. Later, various universities, as well as small research centers, will be able to send their cargo into orbit. In general, the world is currently implementing several hundred private projects for the development of small media. As competition is expected to intensify, it can be assumed that there will be a merger of giants in this sector, primarily in the United States.

End of Russia's glory

Aside from all this was Russia, which cannot be denied ingenuity, but recently it has lost a clear and understandable goal. Judging by the inexhaustible flow of statements by Russian leaders, the country under Vladimir Putin wants to achieve almost everything in astronautics, but cannot bring anything to a logical conclusion.

Related: SpaceX Mars experimental rocket crashes into ground

The world's largest power would like to participate in the construction of the Gateway station near the moon, but Russia has nothing special to offer NASA. It has been developing a manned spacecraft since 2005, but it is still far from complete. As well as the "East" New cosmodrome. Russia plans to start its own project to build a lunar base but is doing little in this direction. It was also about the automatic study of lunar space in the framework of the program "Moon-Globe," but it is also constantly postponed.

The issue of Russia's return to Venus and automatic research of its surface was also raised, as well as commercial flights to the International Space Station and other plans after its end of service. But all these are projects that Roscosmos and other Russian organizations boldly and vividly present. In fact, Russia's space program is languishing and facing a growing number of problems. Corruption and embezzlement are known in this area. In general, there is an obvious inconsistency of actions. It is sad to see that the former space state is deprived of a clear goal and good leadership, and in the near future, it is unlikely that anything will change for the better.

Related: SpaceX Mars experimental rocket crashes into ground

Awkward Europe

An interesting situation has developed in Europe. As part of its space program, it focuses primarily on international cooperation. Together with the United States, the European Space Agency, which includes the Czech Republic, participates in the Artemis and Gateway programs. The agency has agreed with China to send European astronauts to the future Tianhe station ("Sky Palace 3"), and it is cooperating with Russia in the Rosalind Franklin rover project.

Europe is also cooperating with Japan and India. Unfortunately, Europeans do not have a clear plan. In the near future, the main problem will be the development of reusable rockets, as prices fall, and if Europe wants to maintain independence in space, it will have to master these technologies. Now a program aimed at developing this type of media is slowly gaining momentum. But the process is hampered by the European bureaucracy and unnecessary formalities. I think there is a lot of potential in this area. Perhaps the situation would have improved if there was a real visionary in the leadership who is not afraid to take risks.

Karel Zvoník

Read the original text at Idnes.cz

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