Were racing towards the sky
To be the first to build
A lunar nest so very high
The eagle arrived first
But the moon the dragon claimed
Because the eagle could not land
For one of his legs was lame
~Darnell Clayton, 2007
Although this current space race is still too early to call, China and the United States are clearly the front runners in this marathon. China has made impressive strides in its campaign to conquer the cosmos, with future plans of not only landing a lunar rover, but sending a man to the moon as well.
Over in the American corner however, the space pace seems to be slowing down. With NASA lacking the necessary funds for human exploration, they are forced to cannibalize their scientific programs in an effort to keep the vision alive.
With the current dreams of American space exploration evaporating, many have begun attacking their former space champion in an attempt to provide reason for the lack of progress in the space arena. This often results in NASA spending more energy defending itself than promoting space culture, which usually benefits the United States rivals (i.e. China) than it does the American public.
What many entrepreneurs in the emerging space industry as well as bureaucrats in NASA fail to see is that in order for our nation to reach the stars, they will have to begin to publicly cooperate with each other. Just as a lichen can not survive if one organism neglects the other, so to will the “new space” (aka emerging space industry) and NASA will fail at settling the moon if there is an unwillingness to partner with the other.
Despite the fact that NASA has the “committed” funding and a track record of returning to the moon, they lack the innovation needed to not only develop the technology to keep us on lunar soil, but to make it affordable for humanity as well. Although one could argue that New Space has the innovation as well as the passion to develop the technology, unless backed by several thrillionaires they may have trouble getting into orbit, let alone upon another world.
NASA and New Space need to realize that together that they are a team, and if they expect the US to actually visit the moon we so often look at in the sky, they need to figure out how to compliment each other instead of complaining about the other.
While NASA’s current focus of reinventing Apollo may not be the best way to visit the stars, New Space should focus on filling the gaps instead of mocking at them. NASA in turn should encourage the promotion of New Space within the governmental sphere, acting as their chief lobbyist and looking out for their best interest.
This unity is crucial for both NASA as well as New Space, as any perception of division in the public may cause some to see space as a wasted affair. This could cause both politicians and investors voting away towards seeding the heavens with our DNA and instead focus on eternal problems such as disease, hunger and poverty.
Unlike the US, China’s governmental and corporate space programs seem to flow in harmony with each other, which may lead to them conquering the moon before we do. A head start for China could translate into a head start for harvesting lunar resources which could translate into our future children having to learn Chinese because the red dragon is the dominant space empire, at least commercially.
Just as every major empire has had an influence on the “business language” of the planet (i.e. Rome with Greek, England with English) so will the future space power have influence on the solar business language. After all, it is often the victors who write the history books, and unity between NASA and New Space could spell the difference between our descendants reading space history in English, or reading it in Chinese.
Update: Apparently it seems as if I missed the carnival of space (which you can view over at Music of the Spheres). I’ll try to submit a late entry, although if it is not included in this round, I’ll submit it to the next.
Update (6/13): Corrected grammatical error. Also resubmitting post to this week’s Carnival of Space as I was unable to make it in last time.