The United States is still ahead in space development, but China has been making impressive progress in expanding its own program -- and it has not gone unnoticed. "I think anyone who's familiar with the space business, and particularly the history, our history in the space business over the years, would have to be absolutely amazed at the advancements that China has made in such a short period of time," said Gen. Kevin Chilton, head of the U.S. Strategic Command, which is in charge of the military's space operations. "They certainly are on a fast track to improve their capabilities," Chilton said in early November. "They're to be commended for the achievements that they've done in such a short period of time." China's intentions in space are a matter of great interest to the United States. The Pentagon is trying to encourage more transparency by the communist country and last month hosted a delegation that included Gen. Xu Caihou of China's Central Military Commission. Xu met with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and toured various U.S. installations, including STRATCOM, which oversees space, cyberspace and nuclear military operations. "Where they're heading, I think, is one of the things that a lot of people would like to understand better," Chilton said. He would not speak in detail about any of the discussions between U.S. and Chinese officials. Any hope for transparency will be tough to come by. China itself may not have a handle on its intentions, said Roger Cliff, a Chinese military analyst at RAND, a global policy think tank. Cliff said there is an internal struggle within the Chinese military for who will control the space mission.China's president has said its space efforts are "peaceful." But a top Chinese military official spoke of offensive and defensive capabilities in space because "only power could protect peace," Chinese air force Cmdr. Xu Quiliang told the Xinhua news agency. "It is not clear, and in part the reason for that is because China isn't clear where it is going in space, because they are still arguing it out," Cliff said. Also, transparency is in the eye of the beholder, Cliff noted. For China, transparency "is a luxury of the superior military power." Peaceful cooperation on space between China and the U.S now Whitesides 8 (Loretta, space advocate, consultant and former astrobiologist, Sep 8, [www.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/09/the-new-red-sca/] AD: 7-9-11, jam)
Science has long been an important diplomatic tie between nations with strained relationships. It is encouraging to see NASAformally establishing cooperative agreements with China on space and earth scienceand putting in the foundation for long term possibilities. Cooperation may not be as exciting as a space race would be, butseeing all the nations of the world work togetherpeacefully to put the first woman on the moon would be absolutely awe-inspiring. Why? Not because it is easy, but because it is hard. When Kennedy first said it, the challenges were technical, now they are human. But the result would be the same: People being inspired by what we can accomplish when we set a seemingly impossible goal.
Other, more-fanciful nuclear propulsion ideas were proposed too. One, Project Orion, would have been powered by nuclear bombs. The physicist Freeman Dyson, who worked on the project, told the New York Times Magazine he saw it “as the solution to a problem. With one trip we’d have got rid of 2,000 bombs.” “Orionwas a delightful scientific exercise, but not very feasible,” McDaniel said. These various technologies cost money to develop, of course, and the scale of the cash that flowed their way shows how seriously Americans took nuclear propulsion. Between 1955 and 1972, the United States spent more than $1.4 billion in then-year dollars on developing nuclear rockets and related technologies. At the end of that period, when the Nixon administration cut NASA’s budget generally and NERVA’s specifically, the United States was well on its way to developing nuclear power for spacefaring and space purposes. “It is indeed remarkable that the adoption of the Rover–NERVA database, upgraded and modernized by current rocket-engine technology, would fully satisfy NASA’s space-transfer propulsion and long-distance-exploration requirements and permit realization of a safe and low programmatic risk development programme,” wrote Stanley Gunn, who worked on the nuclear propulsion program for Rocketdyne, in a 2001 article for Space Policy. There were several attempts to resurrect nuclear propulsion of various types, most recently the mothballed Project Prometheus. None, though, have garnered much support. One major reason is that NASA picks its propulsion systems based on its targets—and true exploration of the solar system and beyond hasn’t really been a serious goal, though the Constellation plans for a return to the moon. “The destinations dictate the power system,” said Rao Surampudi, a Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer who works on the development of power systems. By and large, it’s cheaper and easier to go with solar power or very low-power radioisotope generators like the one that powers the Cassini mission. McDaniel agreed that the targets drive things, citing the general decline of pure technology-development research at NASA. “Until we commit to going back to Mars, we’re not going to have a nuclear rocket,” McDaniel said. Or perhaps a new nuclear-powered Russian spacecraft could get anxious minds at the Pentagon and NASAworrying about the need to keep pace with the Ivanovs. After all, the Soviet nuclear-rocket program may have been more advanced than the American efforts at the time of the USSR’s collapse.
Russia plans to send a revolutionary nuclearrocket engine into the skies sometime after 2012 to begin exploring the deepest parts of space in our galaxy, and in a global challenge, they offer a Space Race unmatched since the 1960s to Mars. "Chernobyl in the sky?" one reporter stated the obvious risks, and what everyone must be thinking to themselves. Although risks are high,the United States has their own nuclear rocket engine design as well. How will we get supplies and people to planets like Mars for "Terra-Forming" as is already being planned for one day in the future?
Developing nuclear propulsion reinvigorates the space race
Top officials in the Russian Federation announced on Thursday that they gave their acceptance to aproposal stating that the country should pursue the development of a nuclear-powered spacecraft, which is currently set to fly as early as 2012. This would essentially leave the former Communist nation in charge of the nuclear space race, as the United States continue to lose their role as the dominating force in space today. According to Russian scientists, building the new spacecraft could cost as much as $600 million, Wired reports. “The idea [of nuclear-powered spaceflight] has bright prospects, and if Russia could stage a breakthrough it could become our main contribution to any future international program of deep space exploration,” independent, Moscow-based space expert Andrei Ionin told the Christian Science Monitor newspaper. The Co-director of the University of New Mexico (UNM) Institute for Space and Nuclear Power Studies, nuclear engineer Patrick McDaniel, says that the idea is definitely feasible, but that there are numerous obstacles still to be tackled.