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I take all pronouncements about the Chinese space program with a heavy dosage of sodium chloride, but for those who breathlessly (and wishfully, if it feeds their fantasies) believe everything they read on the subject (and yes, Mark, before you start whinging about it, this is a strawman--I figure turnabout's fair play), here's a report that says they're three decades from landing a human on the moon.
That sounds a lot more realistic to me than "one year before NASA." Of course, when they do, they won't need to bring much in the way of supplies--they'll be able to check in to the Lunar Hilton.
[Update on Friday morning]
Mark hilariously demonstrates his cluelessness about my attitude once again:
Rand Simberg breaths [sic] a sigh of relief...
In order for one to "breathe a sigh of relief," one would have to have something to be "relieved" about. I've never expressed any concerns about the Chinese space program (one of the reasons that you continually go off the rails), so it's nonsensical to describe me as "relieved" at news that simply confirms my continuing skepticism. You're the one who should be relieved, but I know that, on this subject, you'll continue to make Chicken Little look calm, collected and rational.Posted by Rand Simberg at November 17, 2005 10:04 AM
Very droll, though I think Dr. Lewis's estimate is on the high side. In any case, under the alt.space way of things, the Lunar Hilton would shortly be under new management were that scenario were to play itself out.Posted by Mark R. Whittington at November 17, 2005 12:15 PM
It is foolish for most of us in the west (there may be a few who know some iside facts but not many) to say what China will or will not do but it is a proven fact that a nation with less man in space experience than China now has CAN have humans on the Moon in less than 10 years if they so choose to. It isn't proven that alt.space can do much of anything, other than talk.Posted by Cecil Trotter at November 17, 2005 12:29 PM
...it is a proven fact that a nation with less man in space experience than China now has CAN have humans on the Moon in less than 10 years if they so choose to.
It is a proven, and irrelevant fact, since they don't seem to be choosing to, or wasting the many billions of dollars it would take to do it the way NASA did, and proposes to do again.Posted by Rand Simberg at November 17, 2005 12:39 PM
In any case, under the alt.space way of things,
There are people who want to simply get to work and get 'up there'. Snide comments, labeling and divise sniping may be fun but they're useless, really, when it comes to getting your hands dirty and getting to work.Posted by Brian at November 17, 2005 01:15 PM
"since they don't seem to...."
Right, they don't seem to... that is no assurance that they don't or won't have other plans.Posted by Cecil Trotter at November 17, 2005 01:18 PM
Brian, "alt.space vs whatever" is a valid topic since some have radical ideas about what alt.space can do and/or what gov't should or should not do.Posted by Cecil Trotter at November 17, 2005 01:22 PM
It is foolish for most of us in the west (there may be a few who know some iside facts but not many) to say what China will or will not do but it is a proven fact that a nation with less man in space experience than China now has CAN have humans on the Moon in less than 10 years if they so choose to.
Its also a proven fact that it snows in San Antonio TX....It doesn't mean it's going to happen though. The biggest drawback to CHina's program, other than cost, is its own government. Politics will kill their ability to get there in ten years before cost will.Posted by Mac at November 17, 2005 01:40 PM
...that is no assurance that they don't or won't have other plans.
No, of course not. We can't have assurance of anything. All we can do is make intelligent (and non-hysterical) estimates of their plans, based on their current activities. Given their current approach, infrastructure, and pace (one manned flight every two years), thirty years seems optimistic. The goal stated in the article as docking two modules to form a mini-space station in 2012 sounds reasonable. The notion of them getting to the moon in the next fifteen years, barring some completely secret program to do it sensibly, is laughable.Posted by Rand Simberg at November 17, 2005 01:48 PM
"Snide comments, labeling and divise sniping may be fun"
They are, in fact, the very foundation of the blogosphere.Posted by Joe Athelli at November 17, 2005 02:17 PM
"Snide comments, labeling and divise sniping may be fun" They are, in fact, the very foundation of the blogosphere.
That is precisely why I don't believe reports, space or otherwise, in which either the author or the authority doesn't know the difference between "they're" and "their". Perhaps it's because I'm so skeptical that I believe only half of what I say.Posted by Bernard W Joseph at November 17, 2005 06:18 PM
The first orbital alt-space co has reached
Spacex just announced that it will announce the
My Rumor source says some time next week.
I hope they are successful.
PaulPosted by Paul Breed at November 17, 2005 07:51 PM
Here's an interesting scenario. Suppose for a minute that the Chinese actually do have some nefarious long-term plan to "take the high ground" and make sure that PLA-sponsored companies have a lock on lunar development. If that's so, might not the slow pace of their space program be deliberate?
Consider: so far, they've launched two manned missions, the second two years after the first but much longer in duration and with a larger crew. Assuming they continue an approach of slow, incremental improvement, it is unlikely that China will be able to send a manned mission to the Moon before the US. On the other hand, if they take their time and slowly develop the hardware and techniques they'll need for a lunar flight (which, even with purchased Russian technical help, will take time), they could be in position to send a manned flight *after* ESAS has peaked and faded off the horizon. If the entire U.S. lunar infrastructure is dependent on a single HLV design, the Chinese may be banking on the first major launch failure throwing the American program into so much disarray that it will be canceled- leaving the Moon clear for them to move in, and with the U.S. no more able to prevent such a move than it would have been in the late 1970s.
Granted, there's a lot wrong with that theory- for one thing, if the Chinese are so convinced that a booster and capsule infrastructure would fail the US, why would they assume their program would do any better over the long term? It could also be argued that the slow pace of the Chinese space program likely has more to do with beaureaucratic or political factors than with any long-range master plan- but on the other hand, the scenario outlined above doesn't seem any less likely than one in which the Chinese try to beat us to the Moon.Posted by Jeff Dougherty at November 17, 2005 08:22 PM
Is it a coincidence that the alt.space community has taken its name from a usenet newsgroup? What does that say about its ratio of useful stuff to fluff?
Snide comments aside, Peter Diamandis has accomplished something significant. Burt Rutan and Paul Allen have accomplished something significant. And there are others as well. The jury is out on SpaceX for the time being.
As for the Chinese manned program, it is mostly beside the point as I won't ever get to ride on their rockets, nor will the vast majority of Chinese citizens.Posted by Fred K at November 17, 2005 10:06 PM
It's not like anyone is making new space technology. The most advanced concept that has ever met space is the ion engine and that concept is largely irrelevant. How about turning some of these tether concepts into reality? How about actually building a solar sail or an M2P2 engine? Where's my VASIMR?Posted by Trent Waddington at November 17, 2005 11:01 PM
why go to the lunar hilton when dring around in your nuclear-powered flying car is so much fun here on earth?
Unbelievable crap.Posted by meiza at November 18, 2005 06:54 AM
Quote from Trent: "The most advanced concept that has ever met space is the ion engine.."
Naw, we tried a couple of times with the Shuttle to do a tether experiment.
Is that a typo? Should it be 0.5% of the government budget? At purchasing power parity that would be $35 billion. .5% of the budget would be $600 million. If they stay at 0.5% of their budget, the budget would have to get a lot bigger to rival NASA. US gov't is 20% of GDP. China seems to be 5% according to CIA (probably fuzzy accounting on gov't owned industries). They will never spend as much as US unless they surpass our per capita GDP, raise their official budget as a percent of GDP or some combination.Posted by Sam Dinkin at November 18, 2005 08:51 AM
It's a demonstrated fact that the United States got a man in the moon in ten years with, at the time, little experience.
That does not mean that any arbitrary nation can do it in that timeframe, though China is probably capable at the theoretical level.
The question then becomes, is China willing to spend the (relatively dear) money required to do that?Posted by Sigivald at November 18, 2005 09:48 AM
Since this is on subject, the Foresight Exchange, a reputation-based betting market is giving a 65-69% chance that China will send someone to the Moon by 2020. I think that's high, but it's at least a rationally derived concensus.Posted by Karl Hallowell at November 18, 2005 04:14 PM
No, a consensus would be 100%.
65-69% is merely a majority.Posted by at November 18, 2005 04:48 PM
No, a consensus would be 100%.
No, a hundred percent would be unanimity.Posted by Rand Simberg at November 18, 2005 04:59 PM
My use of "concensus" here is in the market sense much as the current market price of IBM stock is a concensus. So there would be equivalent concensus at a market price of 1-5% or 95-99% (to give the two extremes).
Unfortunately, the machinery of this market is rather complex. Here, the market consists of a pair of securities, the "YES" and "NO" sides, valued in play money "credibills", worth collectively exactly one credibill per pair. If the YES side wins (ie, China sends someone to the Moon), they get the credibill, else the NO side gets the credibill. You can buy or sell holdings at any time. If you have both "NO" and "YES" coupons, these are automatically converted into credibills at the time of the transaction where this happens.
FWIW, I am a fairly strong NO holder with (last I checked) around a fifth of the outstanding share of the NO market. That means that I would profit (with the play money currency used here), if China doesn't go to the Moon by 2020 (and much sooner if popular opinion should swing in the mean time). It's even possible to profit if you're wrong (but there's a greater fool out there), or lose money even if you're right (if you bail out well before the market reflects your judgement).
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