The new colonial movement: China yesterday officially announced that it has approved construction of a heavy-lift rocket, dubbed Long March 9, that would by 2030 be able to put 140 tons into orbit.
The rocket is planned to have a lift capacity of 140 metric tons, with the capability of sending 50 or more tons into lunar orbit. It would be an immense vehicle, with a 10-meter diameter core and 5-meter side boosters. China would also like to eventually make the rocket, or at least part of it, reusable.
China is also developing another large rocket more comparable to the Falcon Heavy, though this other rocket has no name and information about it is more scarce.
Both projects indicate the long term commitment of the Chinese government to its space program. They also indicate that the present-day international competition to get into space is fueling far more development than the last forty years of international cooperation.
Whether these giant government rockets from China will be practical and efficient is an unanswered question. Just building something to compete is not the same thing as actually competing. The rockets have to be affordable, with the ability to launch frequently to make in-space exploration possible. If not, they will nothing more than big photo ops for incompetent politicians, kind of like SLS is for the U.S.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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