29 thoughts on “China And The Moon”

  1. My Kremlinology, especially the Chinese version, is weak. One internal power struggle and the CCP could cancel their space program like their Emperors cancelled the voyages of Admiral Zheng He.

    1. Historical records suggest Zheng He was stopped by the Ming Empire’s Confuscian Deep State. Some things never change. Our Manchurians speak Spanish and Somali, but otherwise…

  2. Will they beat us back?

    I’ve always assumed they will. The real question is whether they will allow our eventual commercial enterprises to operate on the moon without interference.

    I don’t expect private enterprise here in the US will beat them either. There just isn’t the focused singular drive to the moon emphasis. Besides, there is just so much left to do in LEO first. I’d much rather see us dominant in near and cis-lunar space than the moon’s surface frankly. And as it stands now, that looks very doable.

    The political climate is so different now. No one would perceive a Chinese moon base as an existential threat to the US, as a Russian one would have been seen in the 1960s.

    Of course, assuming China stays out of Taiwan. If that occurs first, the whole dynamic could change overnight. Esp. when semi-conductors become rare (again) and the prices of smartphones, computers, cars, you name it, goes through the roof. Did I mention cheap solar cells for electrical power? If it feels like 1938 now, it’ll feel a lot more like 1941 should that happen.

    Got a car that still runs with plugs and points? Might want to get it to the shop ASAP and get it tuned up. It could be worth quite a lot in a couple years.

    1. ” I’d much rather see us dominant in near and cis-lunar space than the moon’s surface frankly.”

      Oh, reeeeaaalllly? Cis-lunar space, eh? Not giving much thought to, oh, I don’t know, non-binary space, are we, now?


      We’ve got our eye on you, Mr. Spain.

  3. Anyone talking about stuff from last century isn’t a serious person. Go sit on the porch and watch your neighbors.

    It doesn’t matter if China beats us back but it would be nice if they didn’t.

    We need to collectively focus on utilizing Starship to the fullest in the short window before China and other countries catch up. Do that and the results will heal that wounded pride.

    1. That “window” isn’t going to be particularly “short.” It may well be at least decades in extent. The PRC hasn’t even caught up with the Falcons yet, nor has anyone else. SpaceX seems likely to have semi-reusable competition from other U.S. players well before there is any significant such coming from the PRC.

      The PRC, in any case, is a banana showing significant brown spots which will only get worse and rather quickly. Catching up with SpaceX is looking increasingly like a bridge way too far for the PRC.

    1. Starship HLS is the pacing item for a human Lunar return, whatever happens on Starship flight 4 won’t change that, given how far behind they are.
      Orion and SLS are moving out of development into something of a stable production cadence, and are currently not expected to be the hold up for a landing mission.
      In fact NASA has been talking about alternate missions in case HLS and spacesuits take too long, so that they don’t have to keep all the hardware in storage and maintain proficiency for the launch teams.

  4. Speaking of NASA human spaceflight struggles, Rand, I see you ran into Spaceguy5 yesterday over on X. He, of course, actually works on SLS down in Alabama, so…at least his paycheck depends on it.

    But the larger point which could be made both of his lead-density about your stance, and Kluger’s article, is that NASA’s science division actually does a halfway decent job, most of the time*, in planning and executing strictly science missions. It is NASA’s human spaceflight programs which have been thoroughly kibitzed by politics and hobbled by Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy for the last 50 years; it is these which have produced so little in the way of tangible results for the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on them.

    But notwithstanding this, the good news is that we somehow managed to unleash a commercial space revolution over this last decade. And if the 21st century continues to be a predominantly American story in outer space, it will be because of that development: we would swamp the Chinese despite ourselves. Or rather, despite NASA programs of record and the people who run and fund them.

    * Yes, there is still the usual inefficiency and waste endemic to any long-standing government program in the SMD; and the flagship programs are always vulnerable to Congressional interference and program mismanagement (cf. JWST, MSR, etc.). But the rest of the portfolio is still world-class, for what it does, and the success that now regularly attends what it does.

    1. Rand, I see you ran into Spaceguy5 yesterday over on X.
      If Spaceguy5 is an example of the leading engineering thought over at NASA’s manned crewed spaceflight program, it’s a pretty good argument to shut the whole damned thing down, TODAY.

      1. I thought about posting that John. He has been predicting doom for SpaceX for fifteen years at least.

        Every time they break another milestone, he just moves his goalpost.

  5. I don’t care if China beats us back to the moon. They’re ~45 years too late to the finish line.

    The world is competing for second place. Meh.

    In ’82, I visited the Beijing Science Museum. One of the exhibit halls had a mural painted at the top of the wall of a circular gallery with space-suited human look-a-likes on the lunar surface connoting glorious victory by suggested accomplishment.

    Not a single American flag in sight.

    China being second is still their failure. Let’s all celebrate ‘humble’ brag.

    1. If there isn’t mineable lunar water, there is no hurry for a lunar base.
      Also there is no funding for a lunar base. If there is mineable lunar water {as in a certainty, it’s mineable,
      rather maybe there is} than Congress might be eager to throw a lot of money at it.
      I think we look at south pole to see if happens to confirm what we think we seen from robotic missions, but we haven’t seen ice rinks, from orbit. And also check out northern polar regions, a bit, also.
      Then we should send crew to Mars {assuming Congress funds, it}.

        1. Elon will definitely fund Mars, but I think it likely SpaceX will be a major presence on the Moon too.

  6. First of all, SpaceX has a good chance of sending people to the Moon before 2039. Second of all, if China pulls a fast one and send the first woman there before we do, it will be like Yuri Gagarin. Yes, they get a mention in the history hoods but the Starship fleet achieves the really historically significant achievement which is the establishment of humanity’s first permanent settlement off Earth.

    However, it would be best if SpaceX sends someone to do a Mars flyby even during the Mars landing attempts because China could attempt a flyby and always “claim” that they were the first to Mars.

    1. A flyby requires Venus to be in the right location.
      I think, should plan on landing crew on Mars surface, but also have abort option, of staying in Mars orbit, and then, returning to Earth.

  7. After watching ‘For All Mankind’, part of me wonders if it would be best is we let China beat us. Losing to the Soviet Union sure made for a better program in that universe.

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