Last weekend, NASA was once again forced to postpone its “giant leap” toward a return to the Moon, scrapping the second launch attempt of the Artemis I mission. This came less than a week after the previous attempt was aborted by NASA just 40 minutes before the scheduled launch time after problems related to a persistent hydrogen fuel leak. After the two failed launches, experts have criticized the US space agency, especially as China threatens to push forward with its space program.
Douglas MacKinnon, a former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon, described NASA as “simply an ill-conceived poster child for a great space program that is becoming a late-night joke.”
Writing in The Hill, he warned that NASA’s failure would have “negative national security and economic consequences” for the United States, especially amid reports that China is seeking to militarize space.
Earlier this month, the Pentagon held highly classified meetings to discuss the growing threat it faces from Russia and China, which are reported to be developing and testing new types of space weapons.
Defense officials have warned that Beijing has tested a new combination of a hypersonic glide vehicle and a fractional orbital bombardment system (FOBS).
FOBS is a warhead delivery system that uses low Earth orbit to its target destination.
According to DefenseNews, this system is an unpredictable capability that can remain in orbit as long as the user determines it and then deorbit as part of its flight path.
The head of the United States Strategic Command, Adm. Charles Richard, warned that China successfully tested this capability, which “has never been seen in the world before”.
MacKinnon, who was a White House staff writer for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush, criticized NASA for not being a leader and not having “a true champion,” as U.S. presidents after John F. Kennedy did not support space ambitions.
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He wrote: “Today, while NASA focuses on issues such as identity politics, the proper use of pronouns, and global warming, China is dead set on the moon and helium-3, which it gives energy independence, which dirties its surface”.
Helium-3 is a gas that could be used as fuel in future nuclear fusion power plants, offering an unlimited source of clean energy.
He added that while many may not be aware of the potential of helium-3, Chinese officials certainly are.
He wrote: “China is depending on NASA, our defense contractors, the White House and Congress to wake up even more, waste more money and time, and continue to ignore the lessons of history.”
Aside from space weapons, Beijing is also moving forward with its research mission, as space designers recently unveiled plans to build their proposed lunar bases in the moon’s volcanic caves, allowing for long-term stays.
The researchers believe that these hollow underground lava channels will provide astronauts with a natural shield against space radiation and the extreme temperatures prevalent on the Moon.
This would give a boost to Beijing’s plans to allow astronauts to stay on the Moon for long periods by 2035.
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