Earlier this week China released a statement of their plans and hopes for the next few years of space travel. They've expressed to send manned missions deeper into space, send a probes to Mars and Jupiter, and maybe even a landing on the far side of the moon. "When exploring the unknown, we should not just follow others. China should be more creative," said Liu Jizhong, director of the lunar exploration program and space engineering center under the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence. This is good news. China wish to succeed in their space ventures, and if you ask me that's great for humanity. I don't think we should be concerned about borders when talking about space travel and the advancement of all things space, we should want to see humanity as a whole excel.
NASA are still by and large the best at spacial discovery. They're the leader for a reason, despite the ineffective funding they're given. Voyager 1 and 2 are still operational, currently in deep space, New Horizons is sending back awesome pictures of Pluto, the Mars rovers and the Hubble Telescope are still operational too. However, the progress of NASA in the past few decades has been decreased to a slow burn rather than the fiery attitude it had in the 60's and 70's. This was due to a completive nature of the "Space Race". America was rushing against the Russia to beat them in space. Eventually they did it, and put a man on the moon. Nowadays NASA gets 0.5% of the US federal budget, and there are those which would like it further reduced. Hence why their needs to be global co-operation, and a competitive nature. One could argue that if China suddenly started progressing forward with some impressive feats in space, the US congress would act quickly to make sure NASA keeps up. This is all just speculation. The real aim should be co-operation. Imagine if NASA's budget was increased, and the rule against working with the Chinese Space Agency was removed. Co-operation could begin. No one country should have to drive this aim alone. The combined ability of several countries should be aiming for one goal, progress of humanity.
What should be next on the list then? What's the way forward for co-operation. For me, it's probably the moon. Humanity wants to send people to Mars, and the amount of training and experience needed is exhausting. If we're going to succeed, we need to go through a huge amount of trial and error. It's been a while since people have done space walks, descents and landings from another planet. The gravity on Mars, is about 40% of that on Earth, and the moon is about 17% of that on Earth. It's not ideal, but it's a starting point. Effective landings, takeoffs and other tests need to be done, repeatedly.
Mars want to do a landing Mission on the far side of the moon. Why shouldn't NASA, the ESA etc. get involved too? It's probably of reluctance and politics. I hate saying it but personal interested and national pride get in the way of progress.
The next step has to be about co-operation. It needs to be seen as a global effort to achieve some common goals. The main goal for space should be exploration. It doesn't necessarily need to be manned , just done in a way that multiple international stakeholders are involved. Right now, China are extending a hand. The world should accept it and move on from this stance of separation.
Also, take a look at this picture of Pluto released recently. Isn't it amazing?
Picture of Pluto