Space Race OVER? Joe Biden’s plan to ‘make China NASA's partner' as US election heats up

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The US election race is heating up, with the pandemic becoming the main talking point as US President Donald Trump’s personal physician claims he is ready to return to public engagements this weekend. But while coronavirus takes centre stage, the issue of space exploration and the NASA budget injects considerable uncertainty. President Trump has made his policy clear – a programme to return astronauts to the Moon and eventually send them to Mars and he has also established a new branch of the military – the Space Force – to protect US assets in the cosmos.

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What Mr Biden plans to do is still unclear.

He has an extensive career in public service, first winning a Senate seat in 1972 and running for President three times, yet there is limited evidence of his public stance on the matter. 

But, in 2008 Mr Biden unsuccessfully ran for President and managed to get on the record regarding his policy. 

At the time, he said he “wanted to make China a full partner in space exploration, rather than a frustrated new entrant that had to catch up to the United States”.

Space Race OVER? Joe Biden’s plan to ‘make China NASA's partner' as US election heats up

Joe Biden said he wanted to make China a partner of NASA (Image: GETTY)

Space Race OVER? Joe Biden’s plan to ‘make China NASA's partner' as US election heats up

Trump has returned to the White House (Image: GETTY)

A post-debate summary also referenced the fact that Mr Biden professed his support for robotic programmes, and when asked about human spaceflight, said: “With clear leadership, we can do anything, good luck.”

After being selected as the Vice Presidential candidate alongside former US President Barack Obama, Mr Biden alluded to his plans once more.

He criticised the gap between the Space Shuttle retirement and the next generation of rockets, spoke favourably regarding commercial crew proposals, and specifically focused on the job creation aspects of investing in NASA. 

But the 2008 Democratic Party Platform only had a single line pledging to “invest in a strong and durable vision for space exploration”.

But, as experts point to a Space Race 2 being carved out, Mr Biden’s rhetoric will likely have to change as China steps up its space capabilities.

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Space Race OVER? Joe Biden’s plan to ‘make China NASA's partner' as US election heats up

Joe Biden is hoping to become US President (Image: GETTY)

Emeritus Professor of Space Science at the Open University, John Zarnecki told Express.co.uk: “The Space Race, if there is one, is going to be between the US and China.

“China doesn’t make mad claims and they are, by their own admission, behind the Americans, but they are catching up very fast.

“The soft landing on the far side of the Moon that they did a few years ago was really impressive and everybody took notice then.”

NASA’s Perseverance Rover will land on the Red Planet on February 18, 2021, as part of the US space agency’s Mars 2020 mission.

It is the most advanced probe ever sent to Mars and will help to determine whether the planet was once habitable, before collecting key data to help NASA prepare for future human missions to the planet.

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Space Race OVER? Joe Biden’s plan to ‘make China NASA's partner' as US election heats up

Joe Biden had plans to make China a partner of NASA (Image: GETTY)

Space Race OVER? Joe Biden’s plan to ‘make China NASA's partner' as US election heats up

There has been increased interest in returning to the Moon and Mars (Image: GETTY)

Xi Jinping’s nation has also successfully sent its first major interplanetary mission to Mars.

The launch of Tianwen-1, in July, marked the beginning of a seven-month journey through deep space, and once the mission reaches the Red Planet, China could become the second nation ever to land and operate a rover on the Martian surface.

Three spacecraft will also work in tandem to study the geology and learn more about what might be lurking underneath the planet’s surface.

And Professor of Public International Law at the University of Reading, James Green, explained why he believes Mr Trump is key to keeping the wind in the sails of future space plans for NASA.

He told Express.co.uk: “It is true that the US has recently set out a very ambitious agenda for space exploration going well beyond anything that has been suggested since the first Space Race.

“And I think Russia and China are reacting to that on the political level by ramping up their own rhetoric and capabilities.

Space Race OVER? Joe Biden’s plan to ‘make China NASA's partner' as US election heats up

Perseverance has blasted off to Mars (Image: GETTY)

Space Race OVER? Joe Biden’s plan to ‘make China NASA's partner' as US election heats up

China has already launched its own mission too (Image: GETTY)

“But how far the US position will be maintained beyond Trump’s presidency, I’m not certain.

“I can see this sliding away quite quickly after he’s out of office, because to some extent Trump is the driving force, and Russia is just reacting to that for now.” 

Mr Biden has promised to be “firm on China” if elected in November.

He added last week: “I will be firm on China’s violation of human rights, militarisation in the South China Sea and a whole range of things. 

“Recent analysis points out that China knows I will be straight but they are also worried that I will be tough. 

“I make no excuses for that, none whatsoever.”


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