Red China Joins the Money Race for the Red Planet

The lucrative space race is expanding as China joins the United States and the United Arab Emirates in launching rockets carrying rovers to Mars at the end of this month.

The three rockets carrying two rovers, two orbiters, and one helicopter are expected to start exploring the red planet after they arrive early next year. The United States is launching its Perseverance rover today and it should land February 18th, NASA said. The UAE’s mission is also expected to be launched today from a site in Japan.

The United States has sent five rovers in previous years, but this will be China’s and the UAE’s first attempts.

America’s first Mars rover, in 2004, cost taxpayers $820 million and the investment has “skyrocketed” ever since.

Illustration of NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover.

The world’s conquest for power in the universe has always been about the Benjamins.

America’s space race accounted for a whopping 4% of all federal spending, gearing up to with President John F. Kennedy’s dream of the first Moon landing. By 1973, when NASA submitted congressional testimony, the total cost of Project Apollo was $25.4 billion (about $153 billion in 2018 dollars), as per the 1973 United States Congress House Committee on Science and Astronautics.

Today, NASA’s budget is $22 billion.

Russia and the United States competed in a heated race to space while the countries played spy vs spy in a Cold War on the terra firma.

China, the Sleeping Giant, was considered a sleeping Superpower, but remained shut off to the world until President Richard Nixon’s 1972 visit, which began the slow process of establishing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China. Now the bear has awakened.

“The People’s Republic of China is now engaged in an economic blitzkrieg — an aggressive, orchestrated, whole-of-government (indeed, whole-of-society) campaign to seize the commanding heights of the global economy and to surpass the United States as the world’s preeminent superpower,” stated Attorney General William Barr during a speech yesterday at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The space race has always been a vehicle for national myth making, with the perception of being the first to reach new heights or being among the few nations to be able to replicate an achievement — not for nothing was America’s first entry into the space race called Apollo, the Greek myth it’s all modeled upon.

China’s Tianwen-1 probe, named after an ancient Chinese poem, “Heavenly Questions,” joins the United States Perseverance rover to explore the red planet.

China’s probe is built to operate for 90 days and has an orbiter with a lander that will release a rover to explore for water and ice. Perseverance, which will stay for one Mars year, or 687 days, will be looking for signs of life, and will collect surface samples, according to NASA.

Coronavirus pandemic delays caused Russia and European Space Agency to scrap their missions this year. The space agencies will try again in two years.

China’s spacecraft arrived at the Wenchang launch site as the Chinese government is resting its hopes on the Mars mission to showcase China’s progress in becoming a major player in the space race, according to China News Service on Tuesday.

A successful landing will make China the third country to operate robotics on Mars. The United States and the former Soviet Union have already accomplished this mission.
China’s 2012 attempt to reach Mars failed when its Yinghuo-1 Mars orbiter, carried on a Russian spacecraft, fell back to Earth.

The robotics are expected to create the first global map of the Mars climate; drill into the planet’s surface, and search for signs of microbes that may have thrived in Martian valleys and riverbeds, according to BusinessInsider.

Two years ago, NASA’s scientists tried to wet the whistle for “life on Mars” stories, but this one was a high profile dud. Images of a pockmarked Mars with black marks that could be spider tracks didn’t engage the imagination, but magazines like TIME ran big stories.

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