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Reader riposte: New moon race

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30 April 2010 14:46

Morris Jones, author of The New Moon Race, writes:

Further to your ongoing reportage on the India-China space race, the following information could be of interest.

At the end of this year (or early 2011) the USA will mothball its entire fleet of Space Shuttles. For the next few years, American astronauts will have no option for reaching their own space station other than Russia's Soyuz spacecraft. Contracts have been signed for flying US astronauts at the fee of $56 million per seat.

Plans for introducing a new fleet of private US spacecraft are progressing at an uncertain pace. America has made the mistake of retiring its only manned spacecraft before it has deployed a replacement. This is similar to the end of the Apollo program. The last Apollo spacecraft flew in 1975, and US astronauts were grounded until the Space Shuttle made its debut in 1981.

The US space program is in a state of flux, and its long-term future will probably not be determined until the next US President is installed.

China will launch its first small space station in 2011, and India seems on-course for its first indigenous astronaut launch around 2015.

Despite the howls of derision in some sectors, discussions of Chinese or Indian lunar landings in the long-term are not lunatic (excuse pun!) matters. Neither nation will be ready for a lunar landing before 2025, but the potential for either of them to reach the Moon in the 2030s is quite realistic.

Photo by Flickr user Road Fun, used under a Creative Commons license.

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