China has announced an ambitious plan for its space program marking yet another chapter in the 21st century space story, according to this article on phys.org:
Clearly China intends to maintain a heavy presence in space and has set its sights on the Moon, but note the subtle suggestion that no nation maintaining a presence in space does so for entirely peaceful purposes. It doesn't take much imagination to see why: space is the universal high ground and allowing any one nation to have a virtual monopoly of it is a recipe for geopolitical disaster.
The same could be said, in a greater sense, of the Moon. China understands the value of space for the development of technologies here on earth. All of this raises again the question of why America would basically shut down its manned space exploration program when so many other nations are pressing forward. In neither the geopolitical or technological /economic contexts does this make any sense.
NASA has made it clear that it is pressing forward with its robotic space probe program, which has indeed been one of the unsung successes of NASA...not as glamorous as the Moon landings, to be sure, but in terms of data gained, far surpassing expectations, as any perusal of images from the outer solar system, Iapetus, Vesta, Neptune, etc, will amply demonstrate. But why the shunning of manned missions? NASA of course has implied this is best left up to private commercial development now, and I have blogged in previous days about the formation of corporations to mine the Moon.
From the geopolitical and national security standpoint alone, it simply makes no sense that the US military-industrial complex would relinquish manned space technologies, and it is therefore a reasonable conclusion that something else may be going on behind the scenes. After all, as Ben Rich said, "We have the technology to take ET home." Maybe we already have, and maybe everyone else is just catching up. That said, it will be very interesting to watch the development of the Chinese program, and how they will handle and stage their program, and what lessons they may have learned from everyone else.