I’m a little late to the game in posting this, but Robert S. Walker has an interesting op-ed in the Washington Times concerning the race into space.
I find the 3-4 year timeframe for permanent Chinese presence on the moon, suggested by the Japanese official, a bit optimistic. I think the U.S. could do it, if we really wanted or needed to. We have a great deal of technology and infrastructure available which could be readily bent to this purpose, along with the lessons learned from the first time around. The Chinese, however, have yet to orbit their first astronaut, and they do not have the funding in place to support that kind of all-out effort (an important point, since it’s doubtful that their space bureaucracy is any more frugal than ours).
On the other hand, if their program is focused from the start solely on getting to and staying on the Moon, I could see it happening within 7-10 years, after they first gain some practical experience with their spacecraft systems in LEO. Something to keep in mind is that they currently lack a Saturn-class launcher. Unless this changes (and I have heard of no plans or programs for such a vehicle yet), and soon, any Chinese effort will require rendezvous and docking/assembly of a vehicle in LEO. This will require some development and practice, even if the basic know-how is bought whole from the Russians, which takes up valuable time.
I’m willing to be surprised on this, but I don’t see the Chinese program currently at the point where 3-4 years is realistic.
As for his other points, regarding India and Japan getting drawn in to the manned space game, well…good, I say. Better that it should be private companies expanding human activity into space for commercial purposes, but at this point I’ll take what I can get, if it finally gets us off the LEO merry-go-round.