China's Nuclear-Powered Space Shuttle Just Changed the Space Race

We've said it before, but we'll say it again: we laughed when we heard Luxembourg said it was aiming to become the asteroid mining capital of the world. Now it's not so funny, especially since China's newly released 'roadmap to space' includes asteroid mining and "constructing megaprojects such as a space-based solar power station."

A major part of this plan includes reusable rockets, similar to SpaceX's operations. All this heavy space-lifting will be accomplished with new rockets in the Long March line: the Long March 9 will be used to carry huge amounts of cargo (100 tonnes, to be exact) into space, while the Long March 8 will be a low-cost, expendable alternative.

Also in the works is a reusable space plane that can head into low-Earth orbit for space tourism and a nuclear-powered space shuttle. While details are vague for China's nuclear-powered space shuttle, one thing's for certain: if and when China completes such a craft, the future of the space race as we know it will be forever changed.

All of these new plans are set to happen between now and 2045—meaning that if all goes well, we're going to see China become the new leader in aerospace within our lifetimes.

It's a bold claim, and one that's not going to slip by unnoticed by companies like Virgin Galactic (which is already making plans for low-orbit space tourism) and Blue Origin (which is creating vehicles for sub-orbital and orbital flight). Elon Musk's Spacex has already made grand plans to start sending people to Mars within the next decade, and NASA announced plans earlier this year to explore an asteroid worth...hold on...are we reading this right? 10,000 quadrillion dollars. 

Not joking here. In the meantime, China is planning to launch a probe to Mars in 2020 to scope out the planet for "human and robotic" settlement. Looks like Musk will have some neighbors very soon.


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