Tiangong-1 readies for launch in China this week

SHENZHEN CHINA, September 27, 2011 – The long march to space continues for China as it stalls in the United States.  In today’s Shenzhen Daily, as I read it at the airport, the headline reads: Tiangong-1 launch planned at 9:16 p.m. on Thursday.   I am happy that the world is not giving up on space exploration because there is much to learn, much to achieve, and a host of new technologies to bring to life which will have a significant effect on our lives in the next 20 to 30 year.

I am unhappy because the International Space Station is in serious trouble if we don’t get a reliable launch system to keep it supplied, and to keep the crew exchange on a regular schedule.

In a News Discovery article titled “China Starts Work on Its Own Space Hangout” Gregory Kulacki, China Program manager at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Discovery News that “I imagine it will have some impact on how people think about the U.S. space program, but I don’t think it will have any impact on the Obama administration’s plans”

The three trillion dollar spending spree of the first two years of the Obama administration all but guaranties that the United States which up till now had the lead in space technology will see a significant and meaningful challenge from the Chinese space program due to lack of funds for the near future.

The 16 trillion dollar debt the United States will climb to by the time the next presidential election is held will be a heavy anchor around the entrepreneurial scientific spirit that drives NASA’s budget.  NASA can say that they are “re-tooling” the manned space flight program, but the reality is that if the US does not control its spending, and does it quickly there will not be enough funding to let NASA implement its programs.

I remember as a child reading that we’d be in Mars by the late 1990’s.  All we managed to do by then was crater one probe, lose another that probably cratered as well, and then we got to see great pictures and scientific research from two amazing rovers.  Yet, rovers are not men and we are still not planning seriously to land a man in Mars any time soon.

Tiangong-1 is a test bed for learning the necessary skills to remotely control and dock two spaceships.  While some may quickly say that the US is far beyond that, the truth is that the learning curve is far steeper and shorter the third time around.  The US and Russia figured it out but had nothing to use for reference.  China on the other hand can easily use the building blocks laid by its predecessors and improve upon it in shorter time and at a lower cost.  The end result is that China is taking the steps necessary to become a technological leader.  Whether they succeed or not will depend on a number of variables that are not relevant to this article; but the fact that they are moving quickly in the direction is worthy of note.

Today on the way to the airport I was talking to an entrepreneur here in China.  He and his brother started a company in 1998, have seen hard times, but are climbing the business ladder once again.  After touring their facility I told him that his company was a no frills, no nonsense concern and I had enjoyed the opportunity to tour the facility.

He looked at me and said “we don’t have fancy equipment or technology; we don’t have the money other’s do.”   I thought for a moment about what he said and the replied “miss spent money adds no value to a company.”  That is true of a country as well.  Since 2008 the United States has squandered wealth annually that is larger than most countries GDP.

As we prepare for the next election, only 13 months and a few days away, we better be prepared to make the tough decisions that will set the country on a fiscally conservative path to recovery.  We cannot squander another fortune on ineffective boondoggles that waste money and add no value.

Respectfully submitted,
The Lee’s Summit Conservative