The United States has a long history of launching astronauts into space and sending them on missions around the moon. But China has made some big strides in its own space program, including sending an astronaut-robot to the International Space Station (ISS) last year. So what if China gets there first? Will that change how we think about Mars exploration?
Who is going to be the first on Mars?
China has a lot of money and is willing to spend it. The country’s space program has been growing rapidly since the 1990s and now includes a large fleet of rockets that can launch from land or sea (for example, the Long March 5). Chinese companies are also building new spacecraft capable of carrying people into orbit or beyond Earth’s atmosphere—a move NASA openly admires.
How likely is it that China will get there first?
The Chinese space program has a lot of money and is growing fast. China is building and testing new rockets, but it isn’t clear yet what they will be used for. They also plan to build their first crewed space station by 2022—a project that could take years if not decades to complete (and even then, it’s not clear how much demand there would be for this type of service).
So will US-China competition push people onto Mars sooner? Probably not: despite all the talk about making space convenient for ordinary citizens by sending them there in capsules or spaceships like NASA’s Orion capsule or SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket system, actually getting into orbit is still very difficult compared with getting off planet Earth entirely (which requires only an escape vehicle).
The Chinese space program has a lot of money.
The Chinese space program has a lot of money. In 2018, China’s space budget was $6.9 billion and it is growing by 20% a year. That’s bigger than the US’ annual budget for NASA and SpaceX combined!
China’s Tiangong-2 space station is currently in orbit around Earth at about 400 miles (650 km) above our planet’s surface—and it will stay there for another two years before falling back into harm’s way during reentry into Earth’s atmosphere sometime between 2020 and 2022.
The Chinese aerospace industry is growing fast.
China’s aerospace industry is growing fast. The nation has a lot of money, and it has the resources to reach Mars and could launch an expedition there before other countries do. China is also building and testing new rockets, which will help it develop its space program even further.
In addition to all this, China plans to build its first crewed space station by 2023—a project that would require extensive cooperation from international partners like Russia or Europe (if they want their astronauts to be able to visit).
China is building and testing new rockets.
China has a new space station, which it launched in Tiangong-1. The space station is expected to become operational by 2020 and will serve as a testing ground for future missions to Mars. It’s also home to China’s first crewed spacecraft: Shenzhou-11, which made its maiden flight in 2011; and Shenzhou-10, which had its third launch this year (so far).
The country has also built two robotic probes that have been designed specifically for exploring Mars: Change-3 and Yutu 2 (or Jade Rabbit). These rovers are currently on their way there as well—Yutu 2 is expected to land on the red planet next year!
China is planning its first crewed space station.
China is planning its first crewed space station. In 2022, it will launch a space station that will be the size of an American football field and can accommodate up to six astronauts at a time. The station’s main purpose is research into human health and environmental sciences, but it could also be used as a waypoint for future missions to Mars or beyond.
China’s Long March 5 rocket will carry out this mission; it uses liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen hybrid engines similar to those in NASA’s Space Shuttle program (which ended in 2011).
Will US-China competition push people onto Mars sooner?
The competition between NASA and SpaceX will push people to Mars sooner.
The public benefits from this competition, as it will benefit them in many ways. First and foremost, it demonstrates that there are two (or more) options for sending humans into space, which means that when you’re deciding what career path to choose, you have multiple options available to you! This is great news for everyone who wants to work in the space industry or simply enjoys watching rocket launches on TV. Secondly, but equally importantly, it shows how much potential exists within our nation’s economy; we need only look at China for evidence of this fact! We already know China has been working hard towards their goal of bringing 1 million Chinese citizens back home by 2050—and now they’re getting help from their neighbours across town by having access to technology developed here at home instead of having everything imported from abroad, like previously seen cases where Europe would buy things like cars instead of building them themselves because they didn’t have enough resources available yet. “
China has the resources and technology to reach Mars and could launch an expedition there before other countries do.
China has the resources and technology to reach Mars, which is why it’s likely that China will be the first country to land on Mars. In addition to having a large space program with many people working on it, China has the money to fund the exploration of other planets in our solar system (and beyond).
China’s plan for building a permanent colony on another planet is ambitious: they’ve already sent probes into orbit around asteroids and comets; by 2029, they hope to send settlers there as well. There are still several steps before we see Chinese astronauts walking around in another world—but if things go according to plan, this could happen sooner than you think!