NASA Administrator Michael Griffin says he believes China will return to the moon with human explorers before the U.S. accomplishes that goal with its Constellation Program, as the economic competition fueled by spaceflight activities intensifies.
Delivering the first of a planned series of lectures commemorating NASA's 50th anniversary, Griffin told a Washington audience Sept. 17 that there is a lack of public appreciation in the U.S. for the spacefaring skills of Russia, China, and India, as well as of NASA's traditional spaceflight partners in Europe and Japan.
"It lacks only the decision to do it for those nations or societies to do exciting and prominent things," Griffin said. "I personally believe that China will be back on the moon before we are."
Elaborating on his remarks via e-mail later, Griffin said he was specifically referring to a human return to the moon by China, without development of a new Saturn V-class launch vehicle like the Ares V planned under NASA's space exploration vision.
"If one is willing to make use of multiple Earth-orbit rendezvous, a really big rocket is not required," Griffin wrote. "It's pretty cumbersome, but it can be done."
"I think that when that happens Americans will not like it, but they will just have to not like it," Griffin told a questioner following his address. "I think we will see, as we have seen with China's introductory manned spaceflights so far, we will see again that nations look up to nations that appear to be at the top of the technical pyramid, and they want to do deals with those nations."
Wow. THat's quite a statement. The pace of Chinese development in space is slow, but truthfully the way we in the US do things at NASA these days is glacial. Depressing that. There's a lot of acrimony wrt this NASA Admin, but I have to say that truthfully it looks as though NASA lost its way. It does far too much that is not its core purposes. Perhaps this admin will be the one to get it back on track, but, I doubt it. The culture is broken and whining about attempts to cut away flab are inane.