China’s Manned Spacecraft Keeping Up With Musk’s

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Even as Elon Musk Shows Off His Impressive Starship Plans, China’s Manned Spacecraft Could Start Actually Carrying Astronauts Sooner.

So far in the endeavor to explore space, three countries reign supreme, and one of them is a relative newcomer.  That relative newcomer, however, is China. And China’s manned spacecraft could fly in a matter of months. China joined the United States and Russia when they independently placed astronauts in space back in 2003. The exponential economic growth seen in China translates over to their space ambitions, and in just the last couple of decades, they’ve made incredible strides. 

In fact, the Chinese plan on building their own space station, as well as an ambitious lunar outpost. Oh, and if you missed it, last month they announced a partnership with Russia regarding lunar exploration. Further, that partnership will more-than-likely benefit Russia more than it will China. That’s how powerful China’s become regarding space exploration.

The Capsule That Could Beat Crew Dragon to the ISS

China’s manned spacecraft is a craft similar in design and mission to SpaceX’s Crew Dragon.

Most of the news regarding SpaceX of late, however, has been centered on the company’s most ambitious project—Starship. Worse still for Musk and Co. is that most of the recent news regarding Crew Dragon has been about failure and design change. And NASA has noticed.

The night before Musk’s Starship presentation on Saturday, NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstine took a jab at Musk on Twitter.

That’s Bridenstine’s way of saying, “Where’s our Crew Dragon!?” NASA is currently contracting with Russia to send astronauts to the ISS aboard Soyuz rockets for nearly $100 billion a ride. That contract expires in 2020. Needless to say, it would look very bad for Musk, NASA, and the U.S. space program if the Chinese spacecraft successfully flies first.  Musk assured the public during his announcement that Starship was actually a relatively small part of everything that SpaceX does. He also maintained that Crew Dragon was as important to the company as ever.

So When Will It Fly?

This promo video shows a lot of details about the craft. Chinese space officials say that a major unmanned test could happen within the next few months. Of course, Crew Dragon has already checked that milestone off, but that doesn’t mean SpaceX should rest on its heels. This is looking very much more like a real race, and if NASA hopes to get back to the Moon by 2024, they’ll need SpaceX to complete the Crew Dragon as soon as possible.

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Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

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