Headlines proclaiming the rise of a new “space race” between the U.S.
and China have become common in news coverage following many of the
exciting launches in recent years.
have pointed to China’s rapid advancements in space as evidence of an
emerging landscape where China is directly competing with the U.S. for
This idea of a space race between China and the U.S.
sounds convincing given the broader narrative of China’s rise, but how
accurate is it? As a professor who studies space and international
relations, my research aims to quantify the power and capabilities of
different nations in space.
When I look at various capacities, the
data paints a much more complex picture than a tight space race between
the U.S. and China.
least for now, the reality looks more like what I call a complex
hegemony – one state, the U.S., is still dominating in key space
capabilities, and this lead is further amplified by a strong network of
A clear leader makes for a boring race
the current situation a race implies that the U.S. and China have
roughly equal capabilities in space. But in several key areas, the U.S.
is far ahead not only of China, but of all other spacefaring nations
Starting with spending: In 2021, the U.S. space budget
was roughly US$59.8 billion. China has been investing heavily in space
and rocket technology over the last decade and has doubled its spending
in the last five years. But with an estimated budget of $16.18 billion
in 2021, it is still spending less than a third of the U.S. budget.
U.S. also leads significantly in the number of active satellites.
Currently, there are 5,465 total operational satellites in orbit around
Earth. The U.S. operates 3,433, or 63% of those. In contrast, China has
the U.S. has more active spaceports than China. With seven operational
launch sites at home and abroad and at least 13 additional spaceports in
development, the U.S. has more options to launch payloads into various
orbits. In contrast, China has only four operational spaceports with two
more planned, all located within its own territory.
Parity with nuance
the U.S. may have a clear advantage over China in many areas of space,
in some measures, the differences between the two countries are more
In 2021, for instance, China attempted 55 orbital
launches, four more than the U.S.‘s 51. The total numbers may be
similar, but the rockets carried very different payloads to orbit.
vast majority – 84% – of Chinese launches had government or military
payloads intended mostly for electronic intelligence and optical
imaging. Meanwhile, in the U.S., 61% of launches were for nonmilitary,
academic or commercial use, predominantly for Earth observation or
stations are another area where there are important differences hiding
beneath the surface. Since the 1990s, the U.S. has worked with 14 other
nations, including Russia, to operate the International Space Station.
ISS is quite large, with 16 modules, and has driven technological and
scientific breakthroughs. But the ISS is now 24 years old, and
participating nations are planning to retire it in 2030.
Chinese Tiangong space station is the new kid on the block. Construction
was only completed in late 2022, and it is much smaller – with only
three modules. China has built and launched all of the different parts
and remains the sole operator of the station, despite having invited
others to join.
China is undoubtedly expanding its space
capabilities, and in a report published in August 2022, the Pentagon
predicted that China would surpass U.S. capabilities in space as early
as 2045. However, it is unlikely that the U.S. will remain stagnant, as
it continues to increase funding for space.
Allies as force multipliers
A major point of difference between the U.S. and China is the nature and number of international collaborations.
decades, NASA has been fruitfully cultivating international and
commercial partnerships in everything from developing specific space
technologies to flying humans into space.
The U.S. government has
also signed 169 space data sharing agreements with 33 states and
intergovernmental organizations, 129 with commercial partners and seven
with academic institutions.
China also has allies that help with
space – most notably Russia and members of the Asia-Pacific Space
Cooperation Organization, including Iran, Pakistan, Thailand and Turkey.
China’s collaborators are, however, fewer in number and have far less
developed space capabilities.
to return to the surface of the Moon excellently highlight this
difference in ally support and synergy. Both the U.S. and China have
plans to send people to the surface of the Moon and to establish lunar
bases in the near future.
These competing lunar aims are often
cited as evidence of the space race, but they are very different in
terms of partnerships and scope.
In 2019, Russia and China agreed
to jointly go to the Moon by 2028. Russia is contributing its Luna
landers and Oryol crewed orbiters, while China is improving its Chang’e
Their future International Lunar Research
Station is “open to all interested parties and international partners,”
but, to date, no additional countries have committed to the Chinese and
contrast, since 2020, 24 nations have joined the U.S.-led Artemis
Accords. This international agreement outlines shared principles of
cooperation for future space activity and, through the Artemis Program,
specifically aims to return people to the Moon by 2025 and establish a
Moon base and lunar space station soon after.
In addition to the
broad international participation, the Artemis Program has contracted
with a staggering number of private companies to develop a range of
technologies, from lunar landers to lunar construction methods and more.
China is not the only game in town
China may seem like the main competitor of the U.S. in space, other
countries have space capabilities and aspirations that rival those of
India spends billions on space and plans to return to the
Moon, possibly with Japan, in the near future. South Korea, Israel,
Japan, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Germany and the European Union
are also planning independent lunar missions.
has developed impressive technological space capabilities, including
rendezvous proximity technology to send a spacecraft to an asteroid and
bring samples back to Earth, that rival and even surpass those of China.
the past, the space race was about who could reach the stars first and
return home. Today, the goal has shifted to surviving and even thriving
in the harsh environment of space.
I believe it is not surprising
that, despite its decisive lead, the U.S. has partnered with others to
go to the Moon and beyond. China is doing the same, but on a smaller
scale. The picture that emerges is not of a “race” but of complex system
with the U.S. as a leader working closely with extensive networks of
Svetla Ben-Itzhak, Assistant Professor of Space and International Relations, Air University
“Alien bases” may be hiding off the coast of Alaska, researchers say
An organization of civilian volunteers dedicated to the study of
unidentified flying objects (UFOs) has issued a statement based on
decades of studying eyewitness reports. According to Mutual UFO Network,
“alien bases” may be hiding off the coast of Alaska, reports the-sun.com.
say the deep waters in this region may hold something surprising. After
analyzing reports from the ship’s crew from 1945, they hypothesized
that alien objects could be lurking underwater, off the coast of the
Alleged sightings of alien spacecraft nearly 80 years ago
have become a key point in research. Members of the organization believe
that UFOs move over water and may have “bases.”
allege crew members on a U.S. Army transporter ship sailing past Island
Adak saw a massive UFO sized 150 to 200 feet emerge from the water.
Although these reports are nowhere to be found, UFO enthusiasts believe
the unidentified flying vehicles likely were used to commute to
different supposed alien bases hiding in the deep waters.
the “secret reports” of the sailors aren’t available, investigators
have taken it upon themselves to unravel the mystery surrounding the
unidentified flying objects and they believe the ocean has alien bases
that humans aren’t aware of.
Enthusiasts claim that UFOs may be
using “underwater networks” or wormholes as superhighways to travel
between points in the universe. UFO researcher Johnny Enoch added that
such objects could serve as a vehicle for aliens.
There are also
theories that other places on Earth could serve as bases for alien life.
A mountain in Seoul, South Korea is believed to be hiding a UFO,
according to Dr. Steven Greer.
An episode of the series “The
Alaska Triangle” features satellite imagery that claims to show one of
the “alien bases” in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California.
another researcher featured in the program showed markings from the sea
bed that she claimed could have been roadways for aliens.
the mysteries of the ocean remain unsolved, researchers continue their
search, trying to unravel the mystery of what may be hiding in the
depths of the waters off the coast of Alaska.
Enormous City-Size Comet Racing Towards Earth Grows ‘Devil Horns’ After Massive Eruption
A volcanic comet the size of a mid-sized US city has
violently exploded for the second time in four months as it continues
racing toward the earth. And following the massive eruption, the cloud
of ice and gas sprouted what looked like a pair of gigantic devil horns.
The city-sized comet, named 12P/Pons-Brooks, is a cryovolcanic — or
cold volcano — comet. It has a solid nucleus, with an estimated diameter
of 18.6 miles, and is filled with a mix of ice, dust and gas known as
cryomagma. The nucleus is surrounded by a fuzzy cloud of gas called a
coma, which leaks out of the comet’s interior.
When solar radiation heats the comet’s insides, the pressure builds up
and the comet violently explodes, ejaculating its ice-cold innards into
space through seeping cracks in the nucleus’s shell.
Live Science report:
On Oct. 5, astronomers detected a large outburst from 12P, after the
comet became dozens of times brighter due to the extra light reflecting
from its expanded coma, according to the British Astronomical Association (BAA), which has been closely monitoring the comet
Over the next few days, the comet’s coma expanded further and developed its “peculiar horns,” Spaceweather.com
reported. Some experts joked that the irregular shape of the coma also
makes the comet look like a science fiction spaceship, such as the
Millennium Falcon from Star Wars.
The unusual shape of the comet’s coma is likely due to an irregularity in the shape of 12P’s nucleus, Richard Miles, a BAA astronomer, told Live Science after the comet’s previous eruption.
The outflowing gas is likely being partially obstructed by a notch
sticking out on the nucleus, Miles said. As the gas continues to expand
away from the comet, the irregularity in the coma’s shape becomes more
defined and noticeable, he added.
12P is currently hurtling toward the inner solar system, where it
will be slingshotted around the sun on its highly elliptical 71-year
orbit around our home star — similar to the green comet Nishimura, which
pulled off a near-identical maneuver on Sept. 17.
12P will reach its closest point to Earth on April 21, 2024, when it
may become visible to the naked eye before being catapulted back toward
the outer solar system. It will not return until 2095.
This is the second time 12P has sprouted its horns this year. On July
20, astronomers witnessed the comet blow its top for the first time in
69 years (mainly due to its outbursts being less frequent and harder to
spot during the rest of its orbit). On that occasion, 12P’s coma grew to
around 143,000 miles (230,000 km), which is around 7,000 times wider
than the comet’s nucleus.
It is unclear how large the coma grew during the most recent
eruption, but there are signs the outburst was “twice as intense” as the
previous one, the BAA noted. By now, the coma has likely shrunk back to
near its normal size.
As 12P continues to race toward the sun, there is a high probability
that we will witness several more major eruptions. It is possible that
those eruptions will be even bigger than the most recent one as the
comet soaks up more solar radiation, according to Spaceweather.com.
But 12P is not the only volcanic comet that astronomers are currently
monitoring: 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann (29P) — the most volatile volcanic
comet in the solar system — has also had several noticeable eruptions
in the last year.
In December 2022, 29P experienced its largest eruption in around 12 years, which sprayed around 1 million tons of cryomagma into space. And in April this year, for the first time ever, scientists accurately predicted one of 29P’s eruptions before it actually happened, thanks to a slight increase in the comet’s brightness in the lead-up to the icy explosion.
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