Why China May Win The Space Race

Submitted by Denison Smith,

Recently, Elon Musk – the same “political grandstander” that once stormed out of President Trump’s advisory councils and said he doesn’t have the right character to be the leader of the free world – tweetstormed the president about having China impose the “same [low automobile] import duties, ownership constraints & other factors” as the United States.

Funny thing, though: Musk is doing more to empower the Chinese government than nearly anyone else in the country. The quality of his products emits more of a “Made in China” feel than they do a "Made in America" one, and their shocking unreliability is risking our diplomatic standing on the global sphere.

Last week, CNBC reported that current and former employees of Musk’s Tesla have found the company is “manufacturing a surprisingly high ratio of flawed parts and vehicles.” One of the company’s workers predicted that 40 percent of the parts flowing through Tesla’s Fremont factory require repair, while another said that the “defect rate is so high that it’s hard to hit production targets.”

Although Tesla’s travails may disappoint the 400,000 customers that have reserved Model 3s, at least these issues don’t empower rogue nations like China at our expense. That’s a problem that SpaceX  - Musk’s aerospace company - and its Deep State backers are already instigating.

Around the same time that Tesla’s quality control problems were exposed, SpaceX’s unreliability was highlighted by NASA in a public summary report of its high-profile 2015 explosion.

The document stated that Musk’s brainchild implemented rocket parts “without adequate screening or testing of the industrial grade part, without regard to the manufacturer’s recommendations for a 4:1 factor of safety when using their industrial grade part in application, and without proper modeling or adequate load testing of the part under predicted flight conditions.”

We can only assume that the succeeding failed missions SpaceX was a part of were due to similar degrees of carelessness. Disturbing findings from the Defense Department's Inspector General and NASA's Aersopace Safety Advisory Panel don't help to alleviate these negative speculations.

Despite knowing about the ostensible wounds Musk has imposed on our national security, last Thursday Pentagon staffers provided SpaceX with yet another near-$300 million contract to launch a military GPS satellite – a brow-raising decision that may have significant implications on our national security.

Upon hearing the news, leaders from the People’s Republic of China must have laughed with glee. By providing more high-priced contracts to SpaceX, American appropriators are exacerbating the growing disparity in space readiness between China and the United States. That’s alarming because according to Rick Fisher, the country’s goal is “to achieve control of low earth orbit in order to defeat the United States on Earth.”

China recognizes that the United States’ space presence is one of the things that make it the dominant military power that it is today. The country's political class rightfully believes that gaining an edge in space will give them the ability to gauge what its adversaries are doing. Defeating the United States in the upper reaches will allow China to gain improved leverage over matters relating to international economics and diplomacy, and, perhaps eventually, make it the world's newest superpower. That’s why the country has proposed tripling their annual spending on space investment – it will do whatever it takes to get ahead.

As things stands now, China is projected to climb ahead of the United States. The country is currently expected to reach Mars within a few years at a time when our government is becoming increasingly dependent on explosion-inducing, delay-ridden companies like SpaceX to get us there by 2022.

While China's leaders emit rays of confidence about their abilities, contractors like Musk are remarking that the prospect of their companies not causing launch pad damage should be considered a national win. It’s no wonder why the US Air Force has expressed concern about what it sees as the US's “50-year journey” to reach the stars, which pales in comparison to China’s fast-paced “ten-year plan.”

Utilizing SpaceX to the extent that the United States has over the past four years has likely already set the country back significantly in the international space race. China’s ambition and high bar for rapid success is not leaving us with much more of a failure cushion.

There are more reliable contractors available. It's crucial that the government uphold standards that will propel our program forward. The strength of our national defense is counting on it.

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Denison Smith is chairman of Longevity Health Foundation, a new start-up devoted to lowering health care costs through research and education.  Smith is a former assistant attorney general for the state of Idaho, staffer for Sen. James McClure (R-Idaho), and trustee of the Reason Foundation.  He has over three decades of experience in investment banking, including as the former regional vice president of the Pioneer Fund of Boston, the fourth oldest mutual fund in the United States.