Prominent American Scientist Warns About Chinese Moon Effort

COMMENTARY | Paul Spudis, a scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Science Institute, the author of “The Once and Future Moon,” and a leading advocate for a return to the moon, has weighed in on the prospect of the Chinese returning to the moon.

The threat of a Chinese return to the moon, according to Spudis, is that its ideology would dominate the governance of space, including space commerce. That ideology, while capitalistic, is also authoritarian which, according to Spudis, is “–one with scant regard for the rule of contract law, copyright, private property and western notions of free market dynamics.”

That is of crucial concern for anyone who believes that private enterprise can operate in space in such an environment. Simply put, if the Chinese are operating on the moon and the United States is not, anyone else who proposes to operate in space will only do so at Chinese sufferance. The moon contains resources, such as water, necessary for the large scale economic exploitation of space. If China controls those resources, China will make the rules.

Some space analysts, such as Rand Simberg, who purport to be libertarian suggest that a Chinese lunar effort is “irrelevant” and that private bases on the moon will make all government efforts so. It’s a quaint vision, considering that Bigelow is not yet able to deploy and maintain a low Earth orbit private space station and SpaceX is focused on chasing government subsidies and contracts to resupply the space station. In any event, the CEO of Bigelow Aerospace is one of the leading voices warning about Chinese space efforts toward the moon.

Equally insidious is a Time Magazine piece by Jeff Kluger that suggests that since the United States lacks that Apollo era mojo, we should just root for the Chinese as representatives of Homo Sapiens going forth to explore those strange new worlds that we are no longer willing to bother with. That is the declinest view of America, simply accepting the replacement of the United States by China as the premier space power and, shortly, world super power.

Spudis suggests that instead the United States needs to realize that it is in a race, not just for the moon, but for the future. It is not a sprint, but a marathon. To the winner goes-everything.

Mark R. Whittington is the author of Children of Apollo and The Last Moonwalker . He has written on space subjects for a variety of periodicals, including The Houston Chronicle, The Washington Post, USA Today, the L.A. Times, and The Weekly Standard.

Sources: China’s Long March to the Moon, Paul Spudis, The Once and Future Moon Blog, Jan 14, 2012

The Lunar Yellow Peril, Rand Simberg, P.J. Media, Jan 10, 2012

China Will Own the Moon, Space Entrepreneur Worries, Clara Moskowitz, Space.Com, Oct 19, 2011

China’s Going to the Moon – and That’s Good for Everyone, Jeffrey Kluger, Time Magazine, Jan 4, 2012

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