At my Washington office a few weeks ago, I met with a visiting Japanese parliamentarian who specializes in science and technology issues. I related to him my belief that the Chinese would be on the moon within a decade with a declaration of permanent occupation. He disagreed. He smiled and said my conclusion was accurate but my timing was off. In his view, the Chinese would be on the moon within three to four years.
Regardless of who is right about the time frame, and I still believe that even a decade is ambitious, the fact remains that the Chinese are devoting resources and gearing up to do something that we are no longer technologically capable of achieving in the immediate future. We went to the moon, planted our flag, gathered samples, took credit for an amazing achievement in human history and then abandoned the effort. The space technology available to us today could not be used to replicate what we did 35 years ago.
I haven't stayed in touch, but I knew Walker pretty well when he was on the House space subcommittee, and I was doing pro bono lobbying for the National Space Society. He's a smart and thoughtful guy. Read the whole thing, which is really about what China's ambitions in space mean to the United States in a wide variety of areas.
I just sent off a blog entry on space to the MSNBC folks, though it was unfortunately before I saw this item. But stay tuned. (Via Pathetic Earthlings).