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Sat, Mar 17, 2007

NASA's Griffin Says China May Reach Moon Before US

Budget Cuts Open The Door For Other Nations

The combination of a concerted, well-staffed effort by China -- along with recent budget cuts and the resulting delays at NASA -- may very well mean the Chinese will beat the US back to the Moon, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin told Congress this week.

Citing the current status of the Chinese manned space program and its project growth, Griffin told the House Committee on Science and Technology Thursday China could conceivably land a man on the moon within the next 10 years. Current projections indicate NASA won't make it back there until 2019... at the earliest.

"I cannot speculate and won't speculate on what China's intentions are. I just don't know that," said Griffin, in response to questioning from California Rep. Ken Calvert. "As a matter of technical capability and political will, if the Chinese choose to do so, they can mount a lunar mission within a reasonable number of years, say a decade."

Griffin equated the current state of China's space program, as roughly equivalent to NASA's expertise following the Gemini missions of the mid- 1960s -- helped along by better technology.

China also has a lot more people working to put a red flag on the moon, than NASA. The Chinese space program employs around 200,000 people, according to the Houston Chronicle. NASA's workforce totals about 75,000.

The NASA Administrator found several sympathetic ears in Congress, as Republicans and Democrats alike complained about the lack of funding for NASA, given its ambitious goals -- many of which, like the moon mission, were spelled out by the Bush Administration.

"I'm afraid NASA is headed for a train wreck if things don't change," said committee chairman Rep. Bart Gordon.

FMI: www.nasa.gov

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