2021 New Space Race Between The USA vs China vs Russia: In the skies above our heads, humanity’s titular geopolitical superpowers are bracing it out for supremacy among the stars again. Only this time, unlike 1960, there are three of them. Or is there? this is complex.
Join us today as we wear helmets and examine the new space race now unfolding between the US, China, and Russia. What you might call the old school or ‘classic’ space race, which began in the 1950s, peaked during the 60s, and ended by the mid-70s.
It was definitely an informal race. No one flagged off the novelty to set things off. But the two biggest economic and technological powers of the time – the United States and the Soviet Union – fought hard to become the first to make meaningful progress in the universe.
His achievements are legendary, not least unprecedented feats such as putting the first human in orbit – that was Soviet – and the first footprints on the Moon by an American.
Astonishing technical and military achievements in their own right, these historical events also indicated power, dominance, and prestige.
And it is important to understand that they were intentionally intended to illustrate the economic power of each of the combatants, and the effectiveness of their respective systems of government—roughly, communism on the Soviet side, and liberal-democratic capitalism from the states.
The desire to prove not only technical but ideological superiority over their enemies led both sides to literal greatness. So let’s move on to today. Who is running the space race in 2021… and is it even a race?
The most important difference between the classic space race and today is the entrance to the fold of China. The People’s Republic is unquestionably a superpower in terrestrial terms, but only put its first astronauts into orbit in 2003.
Due to the secretive nature of the Chinese government, investment figures are difficult to come by. But even more, generous estimates suggest that China spends a quarter of the US budget on space.
Still, it’s doing some very interesting things there. Take Baidu, the main competitor to China’s satellite navigational array and America’s first major GPS system. Last summer the 55th and final BeiDu satellite was placed into orbit, making the array fully functional.
This independence from the American system means a lot, in that it enables the People’s Republic to be independent in everything from fast food delivery navigation to missile launches.
As part of China’s expansionist Belt and Road Initiative, other countries such as Brunei and Pakistan are now choosing Baidu over GPS, a powerful example of modern imperialism in action.
Oh, and experts say it’s 20cm more accurate than GPS, which is used for both military and civilian applications. If this all sounds a little hazy and mysterious — it really isn’t, but anyway — China is also doing more than its share of grand space missions.
In 2019 it placed a rover on the dark side of the Moon, a feat that NASA praised as a “first and an impressive achievement for humanity”. China’s Change-5 mission recently returned to Earth with rock samples, something no one has done since the 1970s.
China is also in the process of assembling its own orbital space station, called Tiangong 3 or the ‘Heavenly Palace’. Ten years ago, the US Congress forbade the Chinese government from joining the ISS.
So now, during the 11 missions scheduled over the next two years, China will build its own. And it will almost certainly overtake the ISS, which is likely to be retired in the next decade. . China’s ambitions extend beyond the Solar System as well.
What was less widely reported was that a Chinese mission with its own rover, Tianwen-1, aka the ‘Quest for Heavenly Truth’, also reached the Red Planet, and as we know it’s Speak in ‘Parking Orbit’.
To support this rover mission, China is rapidly upgrading its Earth observation stations in the far-western Xinjiang region and northeastern Heilongjiang province – key infrastructure that will prove invaluable for future space missions.
there’s more. China is currently planning a Voyager-style probe mission that will be launched into the more distant solar system.
Under the working title IHP or Interstellar Heliosphere Probe, the mission will send two space probes to probe the giant, electrically-charged gas bubble that surrounds our solar system and that it contains as we travel through the Milky Way. There are ups and downs.
One of the IHP probes will use not one but two flypasts of Earth, and one of Jupiter, to pick up speed and is expected to reach the heliosphere in 2049. Its equivalent probe is due to a swing by the cold, distant Neptune. around 2038.
And if you thought America had a monopoly on dodging private sector rocketers like Elon Musk, think again. Chinese tech billionaire Lei Jun is an avid investor in Galaxy Space, one of several independent operators operating in the country.
GalaxySpace already runs China’s first low-Earth-orbit 5G satellite system and is currently building its own Gigafactory in Jiangsu province to build and launch hundreds of satellites to rival Elon Musk’s Starlink Internet plan. is building.
Another private Chinese firm in the fray is iSpace, which has raised billions in startup capital and plans to develop a reusable space plane to serve the nascent orbital tourism market, among other lucrative homeowners.
However, despite this furious activity, many analysts in China believe the People’s Republic is in no mood to race. To go about things in a philosophically cautious, methodical way, it is argued that China is just playing catchup – for now.
Military, of course, space science has value, but only to mount a solid deterrent, analysts agree.
There’s certainly some promotional value to these big projects, and Chinese tourists actually flock to the tropical Hainan island to watch the launch of the country’s Pride-and-Joy Long March-5B spacecraft.
But the country’s rover technology, while impressive, is decades behind the United States. So where are the Americans?
Pessimistic observers argue that since the Space Shuttle program was discontinued in 2011, the US has not really captured the word fancy with anything in the field of space travel.
Certainly, until recently at least, NASA relied on Russian spacecraft to ferry people and supplies to the ISS. Much of the really exciting space stuff to come out of the States, the argument goes, is thanks to Elon Musk’s SpaceX and its ambitious program of Starship development.
But that’s not really the whole story. Take the Artemis program, a NASA-led initiative that plans to land the first woman on the Moon by 2024.
Not only that, but Artemis wants to prepare the Moon for future resource development, and set it up as a step on Mars.
On the way to realizing the Artemis project, NASA is developing its first deep-space rocket since the Saturn V – the so-called Space Launch System – and is planning the insignificant task of putting a space station around the Moon, which is known. Gateway Project.
SpaceX already has a contract to run supply missions from Gateway. NASA’s Perseverance rover is just getting started on its quest to search for life and be ready for future manned missions to Mars.
There is also a helicopter in it. And wait until you hear about Dragonfly, a NASA mission that’s putting an eight-rotor drone shop on the technically organic-rich surface of Saturn’s largest moon Titan by 2034.
Later this year NASA will also launch the long-awaited $10bn James Webb Space Telescope, the largest and most powerful instrument of its kind ever built.
James Webb will enable researchers to peek inside dust clouds to see the birth of stars and even look into the gulf of time itself to the origins of our universe. Like China, the US is no stranger to the value of space science as propaganda.
The Trump administration’s Space Force initiative was calculated to send a militant message to international upstarts. And while the exact role of the Space Force is unclear, its quasi-military status comes close to saber-rattle in the eyes of some observers.
More mildly, NASA last year unveiled its so-called ‘Artemis Agreement’, a proposed international agreement that seeks to divide territory and resources between the Moon in a fair and transparent fashion.
China, for its part, has not signed the agreement with some in the Chinese media referring to the ‘political agenda of colonizing the moon. Dmitry Rogozin, who heads Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, described the initiation of the US as akin to an ‘invasion’.
Which well leads us to Russia. Until recently Russia was an undisputed world-leader in space, providing specialized transportation to the ISS and even collaborating with China on missions to Mars.
However, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has since shown that it can do ISS runs, and for an outlay, less than the $80 million dollar-a-seat fees charged to NASA by Roscosmos.
In fact, a reused Falcon 9 only costs NASA $50 million and, sadly, Russia’s high-profile joint venture with China, in hopes of getting a rover to Mars a few years ago, will launch. Failed on the pad.
Despite the tightening of terrestrial relations between Russia and the US during recent years, the two countries have cooperated amicably when it comes to space, on issues ranging from the conflict in Syria to US election interference.
However, a newly active NASA, fueled by Trump’s budget increase, and Russian space supremo Dmitry Rogozin’s hold on the Artemis agreement, suggests a cooling of the Entente. In addition, Russia still relies heavily on sluggishly updated Soviet-era technology, leading to unreliability in its rocket program.
There is also corruption in its financial system – note the scandal surrounding Russia’s ill-fated Vostochny launchpad in the country’s the Far East. So what is the current status of the space race?
With three times the number of orbiting satellites, and a far more ambitious, technologically impressive mission portfolio, the US is unquestionably the major player.
China may appear to be in profit, but in reality, the country is operating according to its own systematic program, with no concrete desire to grab or dominate space outside its own sphere of influence.
Still, China has, it should be noted, a budget that dwarfs anything the Soviet Union has at its disposal. Russia is barely in the running these days, with a non-governmental government and economic problems of its own to address.
But even if there is no race, the technologies that are being developed to drive the next wave of exploration should activate everyone. Whether one nation succeeds in overcoming the other.
what do you think Is competition necessary for real progress? Which upcoming mission are you most excited about? Tell us in the comments.
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