NASA chief: China will beat us back to the moon

( AP ) -- The Soviets beat the United States at getting a satellite, and a man, into space. Now, the Chinese may get to the moon before the U.S. can make a return visit

Fifty years after Sputnik became the world's first artificial satellite, a new race is under way with the finish line on the moon. NASA, the former lunar champion, already is predicting defeat.

"I personally believe that China will be back on the moon before we are," NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said in a low-key lecture in Washington two weeks ago, marking the space agency's 50th anniversary, still a year away.

"I think when that happens, Americans will not like it. But they will just have to not like it."

Griffin's candor startled many in the space community, but insiders acknowledge the reality. China has pulled off two manned spaceflights with its own rockets and is eager to head for the moon.

NASA has a 2020 deadline for returning Americans to the moon. China would like to beat that.

It has a probe poised for a launch to the moon, supposedly before year's end. The lunar orbiter is to be followed by a lander and then, by 2017, a robotic mission to return moon rocks. Whether China could land one of its "taikonauts" there before American astronauts arrive is uncertain.

The U.S. is "more technically advanced. We certainly could be back on the moon faster than the Chinese, but we don't have the political will and therefore the resources to do it," said Joan Johnson-Freese, head of the Naval War College's national security decision-making department.

Russia -- the early day winner with the launch of Sputnik on October 4, 1957, and the first spaceman, Yuri Gagarin, on April 12, 1961 -- is no longer the competitor it was under the Soviet Union banner.

Although Russia is a key player in the international space station, with its Soyuz rockets regularly ferrying crews and cargo, it's figuring to team up with the United States in the moon arena.

It was just four years ago that China became only the third country in the world to launch its own rockets with people on board. Now it is aiming to build its own space station to orbit Earth, as well as a mission to the moon in 10 to 15 years.

Unlike the intense, cash-heavy days of the late 1950s and 1960s, budget constraints have slowed NASA's previous rocket-fast pace. It will be 16 years from the time President Bush set the lunar goal in 2004 -- if NASA even gets to the moon by 2020.

That's twice as long as it took after President Kennedy issued the challenge in 1961; Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin fulfilled it in July 1969.

"Apollo was a Cold War program. It was as much a war-fighting program as any tank or plane," and both the U.S. and Soviet Union were starting from the same place, Johnson-Freese said. The Chinese, on the other hand, started halfway up the learning curve, she noted, having borrowed their spacecraft design from the Russians.

NASA insists it's not a race anymore, with grander, longer-range goals than Apollo's flags and footprints. Think lunar bases, with encapsulated minivans for transporting astronauts.

"The U.S. has to get over this feeling that it has to be a competition," said White House science adviser John Marburger.

Competition or no, the prize will encompass more than any lunar treasures.

"I think we will see, as we have seen with China's introductory manned space flights so far, we will see again that nations look up to nations that appear to be at the top of the technical pyramid and they want to do deals with those nations," Griffin said.

"That's one of the things that made us the world's greatest economic power. So I think we'll be reinstructed in that lesson in the coming years."

UAE, Afghanistan buy Turkmen-made gasoline
UAE, Afghanistan buy Turkmen-made gasoline
Oil prices slip in cautious trade ahead of OPEC+ meet
Oil prices slip in cautious trade ahead of OPEC+ meet
Brazil surpasses 6.3 million COVID-19 cases
Brazil surpasses 6.3 million COVID-19 cases
Loading Bars
Latest
Azerbaijan hikes percentage of cars import from Turkey in October
Iran's Karun Petrochemical Company discloses amount of its savings
Energy Minister: One of key goals is to ensure effective use of resources in Azerbaijan's liberated lands (INTERVIEW)
Azerbaijani currency rates for Nov. 30
Number of patients recovered from COVID-19 in Uzbekistan passes 70,000
UAE, Afghanistan buy Turkmen-made gasoline
Design work to build new highway in liberated Azerbaijani territories starts (Exclusive)
Iranian currency rates for November 30
Oil prices slip in cautious trade ahead of OPEC+ meet
Azerbaijan's ANAMA continues demining road to liberated Sugovushan settlement (PHOTOS)
Iran boosts exports via Kerman Province
Iran to prepare agricultural plan for Gilan and Mazandaran provinces
Azerbaijan’s liberation of its territories to revive historical Silk Road – Turkish Grand National Assembly
Azerbaijan’s Aghdam sometimes called "Hiroshima of Caucasus" - France-24 (VIDEO)
Brazil surpasses 6.3 million COVID-19 cases
Malaria death toll to exceed COVID-19's in sub-Saharan Africa: WHO
New Zealand regulator charges 13 parties over White Island eruption tragedy
Daily COVID-19 case count drops to 794 in Kazakhstan
Solar panel power plant launched in Iran's Fars Province
Hamilton wins F1 Bahrain Grand Prix as Grosjean escapes horror crash
Biden to receive first presidential intelligence briefing on Monday
Jennifer Psaki to be Joe Biden’s White House press secretary
Expenses on construction of enterprises in Iran’s Tehran Province drops
Trump senior aide Kushner and team heading to Saudi Arabia, Qatar
France's new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations continue to fall
Israeli cabinet approves aviation, science cooperation deals with UAE
Africa's confirmed COVID-19 cases pass 2.15 mln mark: Africa CDC
74 more coronavirus patients die in Moscow in past day
Israel launches national plan to strengthen industry amid COVID-19
OPEC+ monitoring committee meeting yields no consensus
Weekly review of Azerbaijan's transport sector
Several Turkish provinces revert preschools to remote teaching over pandemic
UK records another 12,155 coronavirus cases with 215 deaths
Certain investments to be made into industrial parks of Iran’s Qazvin Province
Azerbaijani ministries, AzerGold company hold landscaping campaign on Chovdar field
Rocket hits small oil refinery in Iraq's north, forcing shutdown: officials
Jeyhun Bayramov expresses condolences to his Iranian counterpart
Number of COVID-2019 cases across globe up by over 564,000 in past day
Employment in Iran's Bushehr Province enlarges
Average yield of tobacco in Azerbaijan in 2020 exceeds last year volume
Iranian Energy Exchange announces products to be on sale November 30
Weekly review of events in financial market of Azerbaijan
Norway calls on all political parties to enable new, more diverse parliament in Georgia
Turkey condemns killing of key Iranian nuclear scientist as act of 'terrorism'
Argentine prosecutors investigate death of soccer star Maradona
Performances results of Azerbaijani gymnasts at European Championships in rhythmic gymnastics unveiled
Iran reveals details of exports through Bandar Lengeh County
Projects within Industrialization Map framework being implemented in Kazakhstan's Akmola
Overview of events in agricultural sector of Azerbaijan for last week of November
Activities on provision of Russian peacekeeping contingent held (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Iran boosts manufacturing of passenger cars
UAE cabinet approves new cybersecurity body, climate change envoy
Geostat reveals volume of ferroalloys exported by Georgia to Turkey
Bahar Azadi gold coin price still falling in Iran
Kazakhstan continues introduction of mobile diagnostic tools in railway sector
Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan discuss possibilities of attracting investors to Azerbaijani territories liberated from occupation
Britain expects 'very significant' week for Brexit talks as clock ticks down
Iran declares cargo transportation from Sistan and Baluchestan Province
Death toll from COVID-19 tops 172,000 in Brazil
Chinese companies to process Uzbek garlic for further export to US and European countries
Turkey's export of grain, legumes to France declines
Iran reveals its COVID-19 data for November 29
Details of Iran’s trade turnover announced
EU aims to support Georgia in its efforts to reform electricity market
Azerbaijan confirms 4,170 new COVID-19 cases, 1,985 recoveries
5.5-magnitude quake hits Vanuatu
Azersu LLC announces tender for purchase of equipment for laboratory
Kazakhstan's import of Turkish cement up
Azerbaijan shows footage of Aghdam's Shahbuldag village (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Expenses on construction of enterprises in Iran’s Isfahan Province increases
Number of enterprises launched in Iran's Ilam Province shrinks
Turkmengas opens tender for maintenance of gas turbine generators
At least 30 police killed, over 20 wounded in suicide car bomb explosion in E. Afghanistan
Georgia reports 4 426 new coronavirus cases, 3 721 recoveries, 35 deaths
Over 5,500 patients recover from coronavirus in Moscow in the past day
Azerbaijan shows footage of liberated from occupation villages of Kalbajar region (PHOTO/VIDEO)
China increases import of Turkish cars
Employment in Iran's Alborz Province declines
The President of Turkmenistan receives representative of medical community of Germany
S. Korea reports 450 more COVID-19 cases, 33,824 in total
Azerbaijan's turnover on payment cards in 10M2020 up
Inter-Agency Coordination Council discusses enforcement of Covid restrictions
Azerbaijan has ample opportunities and potential for artificial intelligence dev't
Trump may announce plans for 2024 presidential race during Biden’s inauguration
826 more coronavirus cases recorded in Kazakhstan over 24 hours
France sees further fall in COVID-19 hospitalizations as lockdown exit starts
Turkey's Temsa makes 1st electric bus exports to Sweden
Iran registers monthly positive trade balance
Scottish dev’t agency eyes establishing co-op with companies in Uzbekistan’s Karakalpakstan
Croatian PM in self-quarantine after wife contracts COVID-19
UK records another 15,871 coronavirus cases with 479 deaths
Some 46,000 people gather in Paris to protest against security bill
Kazakhstan to modify large energy saving projects on railways
Severe fire danger for Australia as temperatures smash records
Dozens of Boko Haram militants killed in Nigeria airstrikes
Pope installs new cardinals, including first African-American
WHO reports new daily record high of over 747,000 COVID-19 cases
UK police arrest 155 in anti-lockdown protests in London
Assistant to Azerbaijani president posts footage from Tartar, Aghdam cities
UK, France sign new deal to stop illegal migration across Channel
All news