US May Start Lagging Behind Russia, China in Space Exploration

© Photo : NASA/Bill IngallsMedia photograph the Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft is seen as it launches to the International Space Station with Expedition 43 NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly, Russian Cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko, and Gennady Padalka of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) onboard Saturday, March 28, 2015, Kazakh time (March 27 Eastern time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. As the one-year crew, Kelly and Kornienko will return to Earth on Soyuz TMA-18M in March 2016
Media photograph the Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft is seen as it launches to the International Space Station with Expedition 43 NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly, Russian Cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko, and Gennady Padalka of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) onboard Saturday, March 28, 2015, Kazakh time (March 27 Eastern time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. As the one-year crew, Kelly and Kornienko will return to Earth on Soyuz TMA-18M in March 2016 - Sputnik International
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Currently, only two nations are capable of putting humans into space and the United States is not one of them, former NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao and Elliot Pulham, CEO of the Space Foundation, noted, adding that the US leadership in space exploration "has eroded" and Washington does not seem to be too concerned with it.

This file photo taken on September 20, 2008 shows Chinese tourists gathering to watch the Shenzhou-7 manned spaceship on top of the Long-March II-F rocket being transfered to the launchpad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China's Gansu province - Sputnik International
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"While there is no country that can muster the overall capability in all sectors of space as remarkably as can the United States, there are any number of countries that can do some things as well, or better," they wrote for the Huffington Post.

Figures and policies back their assertions. For instance, the US produces less than 20 percent of all satellites in the world. Fifteen years ago America's share of the global satellite manufacturing amounted to 75 percent.

Chiao and Pulham are particularly concerned with lunar exploration. The US, they say, has only a "vague idea" of sending piloted missions to Mars in the coming decades, while "China, Russia and Europe are planning, with firm schedules, to send their astronauts to the Moon in the next decade."

The experts are convinced that Russia, China and other nations "will go to the Moon, with or without us." And should the US dismiss missions to the Earth's only satellite as irrelevant because it has already done it, Washington's global standing will be affected.

"There aren't just two space nations playing anymore, there are dozens. If we don't lead that effort, another nation or nations will. This is important, as it partially reflects our overall position in the world," they noted. "Losing that position would be a blow to our international prestige. We worked hard as a nation to achieve and to maintain leadership in space. It would be more than a shame to simply let it slip away."

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