Air Force Lt. Gen. Steve Kwast has argued that China is way ahead of the United States in the race to send settlers to space, and they are currently a building a “navy in space.”
Kwast, who is the commander and president of Air University at the Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, said that although America remained the world’s leader in space exploration, they were beginning to fall behind China two years after they announced their cutting-edge “Space Force” plan.
“In my best military judgment, China is on a 10-year journey to operationalize space. We’re on a 50-year journey,” he told CNBC. “We could be on a five-year journey because it’s all about how aggressively we are going about this journey.”
Kwast warned that the Chinese expansion into space could present a serious national security problem, but that North Korea’s nuclear and electromagnetic capabilities were the “real problem.”
“China is working on building a ‘navy in space’ that would work even beyond Earth’s gravity,” Kwast said. “Right now, if North Korea were to launch a missile into space and detonate an electromagnetic pulse, it would take out our eyes in space.”
Kwast also criticized America’s regulation and bureaucratic procedures for slowing down the progress of America’s space programs, especially for private companies such as SpaceX, and urged authorities to “bring together the right talent to accelerate the journey.”
“You have to detail everything in your suitcase—each item’s material, manufacturer, weight and more—the government takes a year to go through it and then tells you what you can and can’t take,” he said.
“And, if you have to update your request, then you have to start all over,” he said. “When you finally get approval you have to spend your entire life savings for the airplane, which, when you land, you have to burn to the ground.”
This view is defended by Space X President Gwynne Shotwell, who said real progress can only be achieved if ” the U.S. government must remove bureaucratic practices that run counter to innovation and speed.”
In March, President Donald Trump signed a bill securing funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), with the aim of sending a “crewed mission to Mars in the 2030s.”
Meanwhile, representatives of the Chinese government and the European Space Agency began talks in April regarding the construction of a possible moon base, and have also unveiled plans to land a vehicle on Mars by 2020.