July 19, 2022

New Roscosmos Head

The surprise news of the week was that Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian space program, Roscosmos, was suddenly replaced by the now former Russian deputy prime minister, Yuri Borisov. Rogozin was also a former deputy prime minister.

Reports or rumors claim the fiery Rogozin would be transferred to take charge of military operations in Russian occupied regions in eastern Ukraine. As a close associate of Vladimir Putin, this might not be a demotion, though the official Kremlin announcement just said he was "dismissed" as head of Roscosmos--a somewhat harsh statement if he will be sent to lead forces in Ukraine. 

For a deputy prime minister and former deputy minister of defense to be sent to run Russia's ailing space program might be seen as a demotion, as it may have been for Rogozin himself.

On the other hand, given Rosgozin's inflammatory remarks about nuclear war with NATO, as well as threats to end the ISS partnership by 2025, build their own small space station, plans for a new generation of spacecraft, and signing on to China's planned lunar base as a junior partner, Rogogin's replacement by a top-level official might mean Putin would be willing to dump serious money into rebuilding their space program.

Rogozin's tenure at Roscosmos was to all observers marked by continual decent towards irrelevance and endemic quality control issues and even sabotage, raising the question if his new responsibilities in Ukraine might also harm the Russian war effort.

As a possible sign of a ramping down of space station tensions under Borisov, a new crew seat barter agreement was signed, to allow for continued flights by Americans on Soyuz and Russians on Crew Dragon. 

Stay tuned!

Update: Roscosmos reiterated that Russia will leave ISS partnership in 2025, with the intent of building their own space station. There was no mention if they would try to remove any of their modules from ISS (if they even have the ability to do so). NASA reported they have not yet received any official communication regarding this, but stated that NASA would work to replace lost functions such as propulsion within that time.

July 7, 2022

China: "We Won't Claim Moon"--Just like "We Won't Militarize South China Sea"

Remember when China denied they would militarize the fake "islands" they dredged up in violation of the Law of the Sea Treaty? In 2015, Chinese dictator Xi Jinping pledged “China does not intend to pursue militarization” of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Of course, that's exactly what they did, building extensive military bases all across the sea.

Fast forward to last week, when China's foreign minister objected to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson calling out the Chinese regime for having similar plans to claim key areas of the moon, which would be in violation of the Outer Space Treaty.

This is no secret, in fact, they have boasted they would claim the Moon and Mars. In 2017, the head of China's lunar program, Ye Peijian, compared the Moon and Mars to islands they are trying to illegally seize in the South and East China Seas:
The universe is like the ocean, the moon is like the Diaoyu Islands, and Mars is like Huangyan Island.
The "Diaoyu Islands" are in fact Japan's sovereign Senkaku Islands. "Huangyan Island" is in fact the Philippines’ sovereign Scarborough Shoal, which China seized and completely militarized in violation of the Law of the Sea Treaty.

So when China's government objects to Nelson stating what everyone knows and what Ye Peijian described so poetically, it's like the criminal pointing at an innocent person and shouting, "there's the thief!" That's called "projection" or "mirroring," and it's a staple of Chinese Communist Party propaganda. 

Back to Bill Nelson. He just warned what everyone in defense and space policy knows. That China is instigating a “new race to space” with the long-term goal of “tak[ing] over” the moon.

“We must be very concerned that China is landing on the moon and saying, ‘It’s ours now and you stay out,’” He continued, describing the Chinese space program for what it is, a military agency dedicated to establishing military control of space. "China's space program is a military space program," where they are learning "how to destroy other people's satellites," and that the south pole of the moon is "hotly contested."

The new CCP space station is not like ours, it's a military post for developing space weapons and espionage. Ever seen a real photo of the complete station? We show off thousands of photos of ISS, but China won't release more than a few, very limited angles, raising the suspicions they are hiding spy equipment and perhaps even weapons. That wouldn't be a new idea. After all, the Soviet Almaz space station was armed with a 14.5mm cannon (5,000 rounds per minute!) and espionage equipment. 

What does this verbal exchange mean? America and our allies had better light the rockets under everyone and accelerate our return to the Moon. 2025 may be almost too late. China has an unlimited budget and no political fights. 2026, 2027 or 2028 may see a Chinese flag and "keep out" signs on the water-ice bearing craters on the lunar south pole.

That means Bill Nelson needs to ask Congress for the funds to accelerate everything. SLS, lander (SpaceX's Starship), spacesuits, and everything else needed to have 'boots on the ground' on the Moon by early 2025. Go to three shifts if that's what it takes. If necessary, cancel or delay the Gateway to shift that funding to getting to the Moon absent the Gateway. Consider bypassing SLS if it's running behind and go entirely on SpaceX spacecrafts.

Just keep in mind that we are in a struggle between the free world having civilian and commercial access to orbital and cis-lunar space and to the surfaces of the Moon and Mars, or a dark future where access is either denied outright, or allowed only as per current Chinese commercial rules (in violation of WTO) that require a 51% Chinese partner (often associated with the government or military), surrendering all of a company's technology, and remaining silent on human rights and labor abuses in China. 

Our mere presence on the Moon will help restrain Xi's worst instincts. Ready? Let's go!

(Photo credit NASA)