Explore the announcements, awards, cancellations, transformations, launches, disasters and successes as America strives to develop new capabilities for human spaceflight in the 21st century.

Author: John Kavanagh; Twitter: @kavanagh

Timeline emphasizes amount NASA awards in cost-plus contracts for government-operated systems versus competitive fixed-price commercial agreements with payment milestones for services, or achievement by entirely private efforts. Specific attention drawn to pattern of over-budget program cancellations and long-term public-private partnerships.

Evident paradoxes of American space policy:

– If flying astronauts again is important, why does NASA spend more on Russia for this than U.S. Commercial Crew? Or why not decouple Orion from Space Launch System to fly sooner on existing American rocket?

– If beyond Earth exploration is next objective of human spaceflight, why does NASA spend most to build government-operated rockets redundant to existing launch industry? Why not develop new technologies instead?

– If reducing spaceflight expense is a priority, why does each successive NASA-operated space transport cost more than the last – while flying less frequently? Why not rely on existing American commercial launch?

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Manned lunar landing under research


According to Zhang Yuhua, deputy general director and deputy general designer of theChang’e-3 probe system, Chinese aerospace researchers are working on setting up a lunarbase.

In a recent speech at the Shanghai Science Communication Forum about the future plansfor China’s lunar exploration, Zhang Yuhua said: “In addition to manned lunar landingtechnology, we are also working on the construction of a lunar base, which will be used fornew energy development and living space expansion.”

She further explained that after the future establishment of the lunar base, mankind willconduct energy reconnaissance on the moon, set up industrial and agricultural productionbases, make use of the vacuum environment to produce medicines, etc. She said: “I believethat in 100 years, humans will actually be able to live on another planet.”

About the Chang’e-5 mission that is planned for launch around 2017, Zhang said: “Technically, the Chang’e-5 mission is harder than Chang’e -3 and Chang’e-4. It will bringback 2 kg of lunar soil samples, take off on the lunar surface and realize rendezvous anddocking in lunar orbit. We shall be very creative in the technologies required to achievethose goals.”

For the manned lunar landing that many people are interested in, she explained that afterthe completion of the Chang’e-5 mission, the lunar exploration program and the mannedspace program will be combined to realize a manned lunar landing. She added: “Themanned lunar landing has not yet secured approval from the national level authorities, butthe research and development work is going on.”

(Editor:KongDefang、Zhang Qian)