From New York Times:
In March, during an otherwise routine budget hearing, Michael D. Griffin, the NASA administrator, warned members of Congress that China’s aggressive space program could “easily” put humans on the Moon before American astronauts are able return to the lunar surface under the space agency’s proposed Moon-Mars project.
The China card can be a strong selling point on Capitol Hill, and Mr. Griffin, trying to finance an ambitious human spaceflight program with Mars as the ultimate goal, plays it as well as anyone.
This is America’s great space-age paranoia: that the United States has frittered away 35 years of space superiority, and a new generation of rivals is about to shove it into second place.
China is the challenger du jour. It became the third nation to send a human into space in 2003, it put a two-man crew in orbit in 2005 and it plans to send an unmanned orbiter to the Moon this year. It plans to launch three astronauts and conduct its first spacewalk in 2008. [Full Text]