Former House Science chair Robert Walker has concluded that China may have plans for a permanent lunar settlement by 2012. Already the Chinese Shenzhou copy of the Russian Soyuz capsule will be ready to take the first taikonauts into Earth orbit by later this year. The Chinese seem to have ambitious plans for space, and they have an increasingly large industrial and technological base to fund and develop those ambitions.
Could this provoke another space race? Perhaps. It is certain that the American space program lacks the kind of compelling vision of Kennedy’s moon shot in the 21st Century. Another space race might be just what is needed to make space travel closer to a reality for more than just a handful of astronauts.