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China growing its space program as U.S. winds down

by Jorge Hernandez on July 11, 2011

The United States' space program may be winding down, but one country is ratcheting up its efforts. China recently announced that it is entering the beginning stages of building a Chinese space station, and hopes to put a man on the moon by 2020.

The Associated Press reports the country is planning on sending a module into orbit later this yea that will be the first step in the space station, and its leaders also hope to launch a lunar probe by 2013. Though it might be an encouraging move for China, some officials stateside are concerned that the U.S. may fall behind the burgeoning country in terms of spaceflight, because while America still is leaps and bounds ahead, China will likely not fall victim to any budgetary constraints.

"Space leadership is highly symbolic of national capabilities and international influence, and a decline in space leadership will be seen as symbolic of a relative decline in U.S. power and influence," Scott Pace, an associate NASA administrator in the George W. Bush administration, told the AP.

It may be inevitable though, especially given that the International Space Station is slated to close in 2020, the same year the Chinese space station is expected to open, and that the space shuttle program has been shelved, once Atlantis returns home.

In addition to China, several other countries have shown a push for greater space exploration. The news source reports that Russia has laid out hopes to build a base on the moon and eventually get to Mars, while India has already performed an unmanned lunar orbit and says it will plan its first manned space flight in 2016.

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