Friday, Jan 2, 2008
President-elect Barack Obama will probably tear down long-standing barriers between the U.S.’s civilian and military space programs to speed up a mission to the moon amid the prospect of a new space race with China.
Obama’s transition team is considering a collaboration between the Defense Department and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration because military rockets may be cheaper and ready sooner than the space agency’s planned launch vehicle, which isn’t slated to fly until 2015, according to people who’ve discussed the idea with the Obama team.
The potential change comes as Pentagon concerns are rising over China’s space ambitions because of what is perceived as an eventual threat to U.S. defense satellites, the lofty battlefield eyes of the military.
(ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW)
“The Obama administration will have all those issues on the table,” said Neal Lane, who served as President Bill Clinton’s science adviser and wrote recently that Obama must make early decisions critical to retaining U.S. space dominance. “The foreign affairs and national security implications have to be considered.”
China, which destroyed one of its aging satellites in a surprise missile test in 2007, is making strides in its spaceflight program. The military-run effort carried out a first spacewalk in September and aims to land a robotic rover on the moon in 2012, with a human mission several years later.
A Level of Proficiency
“If China puts a man on the moon, that in itself isn’t necessarily a threat to the U.S.,” said Dean Cheng, a senior Asia analyst with CNA Corp., an Alexandria, Virginia-based national-security research firm. “But it would suggest that China had reached a level of proficiency in space comparable to that of the United States.”