The most recent Transformers movie gives us a look back at the Moon landing. This at a time when the future of human space flight, or at least American space flight, is in question. The last space shuttle mission is currently on its way home, and our astronauts will have to book future trips to the International Space Station with the Russians.
The general idea in the United States is that the private sector will now take over space flight. In fact, a company called SpaceX (which sounds like something from a 1950’s Sci-Fi movie) is very close to launching its first mission to the ISS. In December, they hope to send a remote-guided capsule there and return it safely to Earth.
If they succeed, SpaceX wants to put people in its capsules next. That would allow NASA to at least book flights with an American company rather than outsourcing to Russia. If everything goes according to plan, it could happen as early as 2014.
In the meantime, China is moving ahead with its own space program. Their three-step agenda will lead to construction of a moon base, and then China intends to mine the Moon for its resources, believed to include iron, titanium, and helium-3 (needed to build nuclear fusion reactors). According to Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program, China will do this “for the benefit of humanity.”
The United States has expressed some interest in chasing Near Earth Objects, asteroids and comets that come close—sometimes dangerously close—to our planet. Many of these asteroids contain valuable resources as well, such as platinum group metals, and some groups in the US advocate asteroid mining as a way to solve America’s ongoing economic crisis.
It’s not hard to imagine, if moon bases and asteroid chasing become profitable, that the US, China, and any other country involved in space flight, will come into conflict. Helium-3 could become the new oil, and the Moon the new Middle East.
For more on SpaceX, click here.
For more on China’s plans to go to the Moon, click here.
For more on the Moon’s valuable resources, click here.
For more on asteroid mining, click here.