ISPCS: Bob Bigelow on the Competition With China

Robert Bigelow

Bob Bigelow — I’ll be somewhat controversial today — that got applause…

Space business is about to change….a new gunslinger in town, he’s not American, and he’s aiming at Solar System monopoly….he’s started to play the game, but we’re not even aware it’s happening…

In about 15 years, that game will end…

America has become weaker, not stronger, over the last 20 years….we will spend the next five years trying to recover from the recession…Are we weaker than we were in 1969, how close are we to being relegated to the number 2 position in the world across the board…

Who will be in the charge as the dominant force? China

Permanent problems

  • enormous cost of entitlements
  • overly generous retirement system
  • poor results of education program
  • pathetic lack of skills, honesty and ability in our government
  • NASA is a shadow of what it used to be in 1960’s

The 1960’s program was dominated by fear…fear of the Russians and their potential capabilities….produced sizzle, ambition, creativity and excitement with national pride at the core

China already has a grand national vision — to be the indisputable leader in the world across the board, with the possible exception of freedom but they are probably freer now than they ever have been….

Chinese space program includes landing humans on moon and establishing a base there….in the 2020s…

Believes that China will not just do a footprints and moon rocks mission….no point in simply repeating Apollo….opportunity to create a sea change in global power that comes along very rarely…

Why not take the all important next step: ownernship ownership ownership

Believe they will make ownership claims wherever they land and can move about — that process will continue until they can claim the entire moon…

Why Would They Do This?

  • Mining operations, clean power sources, fusion reactor material, rocket fuel, water ice, colonization to save the species, sell or lease tracts on the surface, licensing rights for resources, services for transportation, etc.
  • Effects upon Chinese national pride — Americans still basking in the achievements of Apollo some 40 years later… Very powerful acheivement
  • Global psychological impact of proving Chinese supremacy….
  • Nothing bigger that China could do to elevate themselves and demoralize others across the world…


  • China debt is no a problem, $3 trillion in cash, enormous economic growth, largest exporter and importer
  • China will be No. 1 in GDP in 2016
  • Very focused on IP, information technologies and not too finicky about how they do it…they’re aggressive about stealing it
  • Don’t really enforce patents…
  • Major progress across the board in space — human missions, lunar spacecraft, etc.
  • Five year plans….China is good at maintaining its focus

How They Will Make Claims?

  • Put down enough markers and do enough surveying to be able to claim on the moon
  • 1967 Space Treaty — nations can propose modifications that can be approved by majority of nations — China is making investments around the world to influence countries
  • Nations can withdraw from the treaty in a year by simply sending a letter
  • Public opinion will stop this? No. They’re playing by the rules. Going through traditional process of surveying the land and trying to change treaty/withdrawing from it

Can the U.S. or an American-led coalition stop it?

  • No. This isn’t on the radar of any political leader. By the time we wake up, it will be too little too late.

When Will it Happen?

  • 2022 to 2026

Well, Mars Would Still be Available?

  • But how would we afford to explore it? And is NASA up to the task?


  • Safely reduce the military budget by 10 percent in order to free up money for space expenditures
  • (Ed. note: “Make space, not war” could be a cool new slogan.)
  • Could feed the military industrial complex by refocusing it on space
  • America would finally have a new vision, supported by fear

Effect of Recession on Bigelow Aerospace?

  • We have downsized our company because of the recession….hoped to launch by 2014 but our customers are not ready and we will not have transportation to orbit by then….
  • So we backed off…what’s the rush?

How soon will we see ITAR free international space companies?

If it doesn’t happen here, it’s going to happen outside of the United States

Change could happen overnight if the government decided to do it — release the suborbital folks from the those requirements — it’s rediculous that they have to deal with it