American confidence that its private space sector can take on China alone is wildly misplaced.
When China landed on the far side of the lunar surface early this year, Americans tended to dismiss the achievement. Either they said some version of “been there, done that, 50 years ago,” or commented that it was nothing to be concerned about. China would have to contend with not the U.S. government sector in space led by NASA, but the vibrant and successful U.S. private space sector led by Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
Certainly, the U.S. private space sector today has a significant advantage. But China is hot on their heels — encouraging their own billionaires and private space companies (Onespace, Landspace, iSpace, Linkspace) to enter the sector. To enable this, President Xi Jinping and the Chinese state have created a supportive environment. While the U.S. private space program has a 19 year head-start with the founding of Blue Origin in 2000, the Chinese private space sector that took off around 2015 drew an investment of $2 billion in 2018 alone [China’s state funded space program takes about $6 billion annually] and is growing rapidly.
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