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Space: Our lost frontier

Published November 13. 2010 09:00AM

China already has overtaken us in manufacturing. As our factories were shuttered, new more efficient factories were opened in China. The cash flow from new investments in Chinese infrastructure not only improved the lives of the Chinese population but has also provided vast quantities of cash that they needed to invest. This enabled them to buy large quantities of our national debt. We are now so dependent upon them to finance our deficit that should they stop buying our bonds, we would have to print money. The Federal Reserve can buy government bonds to monetize our debt. This of course causes inflation. But there is another risk that is looming on the horizon that many "experts" have missed.

As I write this, a Chinese lunar probe is circling the moon looking for landing sites for manned moon mission (Chang'e 2). This is the second moon mission by the Chinese and has the ability to map the moon down to a square meter, which is far superior to the mapping performed by the United States over 20 years ago. The Chinese will put their man on the moon by 2020. There's also talk of a space station that can be used for ferrying missions to both the moon and Mars. In the early months of 2011 the Chinese will launch the first component of their space lab, Tiangong 1. There will be three Chinese astronauts aboard this vehicle. A Mars mission is also planned for 2013 that will map landing sites for a manned mission to Mars.

Meanwhile the 23,000 employees of NASA have very little to show for their $100 billion plus budget over the next five years. In my opinion, America is losing the space race. With China planning space stations, moon habitats, and the exploration of Mars for potential settlement, we are now years behind in our efforts to be first in space. Once we lose our preeminence in space, we will lose the technological leaps that come from new inventions and the ability to defend ourselves from a space-based attack.

So why is China placing such an emphasis on space exploration, particularly the moon missions and the desire to establish a moon base? I've given this a lot of thought and I conclude that they are looking for energy. At the current time, China is a net importer of petroleum products. So what does the moon have that earth does not have? The answer is massive amounts of the substance called helium 3, which is deposited on the moon by the solar wind. Helium 3 is very rare on earth, yet is plentiful on the moon. It enables safe, clean, radiation-free nuclear fusion. Only 40 tons of this material can supply all the energy we use in the United States for an entire year. Current estimates placed the amount of helium 3 on the moon at 1 million tons. Could this be the reason that the Chinese and the Russians have secretly developed high priority plans for moon missions?

What value would we place on one ton of helium 3? It would obviously be many billions of dollars based on the power generation capability. Therefore, it would be profitable to strip-mine this material from the moon and ferry it back to earth. You might think that this would be a very difficult and expensive venture. Taken at face value it is. But if you take the value of the energy produced from Helium 3, it should be relatively inexpensive to mine it and transport it back to earth. In looking for a good example of the cost benefit, I found similar economics in the spice trade. In the late 1500s and early 1600s, the spice trade was very important to England. They had sailing ships that would travel to the Far East to get the spices the English so desperately wanted. These voyages would last many months and were very hazardous. Pirates could hijack cargo, storms could sink ships, and disease often decimated the crews. The risks were extremely high, but so were the profits. Queen Elizabeth the First of England founded the East India Company in 1600. This company had the largest commercial fleet in the world. The fleet was so large it surpassed the navies of Great Britain, Spain, Portugal and France. Their only goal was to bring back spices, gold and tea from the Far East. I believe that a similar company, financed by a government such as China or private enterprise could make helium 3 mining on the moon commercially viable.

With all this in mind, it is time to look at NASA. This agency's better years were in the 1960s and 1970s. Their missions have been scaled back even as the costs increased. The Chinese moon mission currently in progress has a budget of $134 million. The two final space shuttle missions this year will cost about $2.5 billion. NASA is not only ineffective, but it is a financial sinkhole. The shuttles will be retired after the next launch, leaving America with no capability to put men and women into space. We will have to rely on the Russians to let us hitchhike to the space station. Meanwhile, the one of best aerospace engineers has been relegated to the Mojave Desert for the last 30 years. Burt Rutan has been making tremendous progress on the design of new aircraft and space vehicles without the help of big corporations or the government. His first venture into space, called SpaceShipOne won the $10 million X prize for making two trips to space in one week with the same space ship. SpaceShipOne cost $21 million to build. As a result of the success of this flight, Virgin Galactic has partnered with Burt Rutan to create SpaceShipTwo. Within the next few months this new craft will be taking space tourists into sub-orbit for mere $200,000 per person. Clearly NASA has failed both technically and financially. It is time for us to shut down NASA and turn space exploration over to American-owned private enterprise and the U.S. military.

I also believe that the US military should develop new space capabilities to defend American interests on this planet and to ensure that the space lanes are safe and secure for American businesses. All American research for both the commercial and military space efforts should be done in the United States of America. All of the components required to create space vehicles should be built in the United States. The jobs produced by this massive effort to commercialize space should be based right here. If we are not careful we may lose our preeminence in space. If the Chinese have not eclipsed us yet, they will over the next three to five years. They have costs under control, they have talented scientists, and they have their eyes on the mission. Our nation has lost its way in space. It is time for us to refocus our efforts or else our scientific institutions will be shuttered and the scientists moved overseas, just as our factories and manufacturing jobs have shifted to Asia.

I'm sure many of you will think I am overly pessimistic. In the past I have focused on the deficit, immigration, and foreign trade. While these are important issues, we have to look into the future to see where our American preeminence is being challenged. I believe that this is in space. The next great energy breakthrough will be fusion from helium 3 mined from the surface of the moon. If we do not get in this race now we will definitely be the loser. Once China or Russia have established space stations, you can bet they will have the ability to protect them. Once they establish moon bases and mining operations, they will need to defend them as well. They will protect their supply of helium 3 and the space vehicles vigorously. If we are not first in line, we may find ourselves cut off from this fuel source. Without fusion, we will be relegated to using old petroleum and fossil-based fuels to power our homes and businesses. The phrase, "he will has the gold, rules", will be changed to "he who has the helium 3, rules". I do not want this to be the Chinese.

As I write this article, many of us are wondering what caused the contrail off the west coast of California. This morning on the news it was stated that it was an optical illusion. Other people said it could be the contrails of a jet taking off. Well, I have no idea what it was. Could it have been a missile launch from a foreign submarine? Is someone trying to tell us that they have the power to defeat our coastal defenses and launch a missile against Los Angeles or San Francisco? What will happen if we find out that China can sneak in past our defenses and launch a missile against Los Angeles? Stop a minute and think what will happen if we lose our leadership in outer space. Space launched missiles could rain down on the United States and devastate our cities. Many countries have signed peace treaties in the past. Germany had a treaty with Russia not to attack them in World War II. They did so anyway. Rogue nations have violated just about every treaty that they signed. If China or Russia controls space, will they honor the treaty prohibiting the militarization of space? I do not believe that they will. Then it is just a matter of time until they take away our sovereignty and diminish the American way of life. Wake up America! If we sleep now there will be a new world order when we awake.

© 2010 Gordon Smith All Rights Reserved.

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