China Moon Mission Could Boost First Coast Economy

Jan 21, 2014

Local author Chris Berman’s recent novel Red Moon was intended as fiction, but his prediction of an unmanned Chinese moon mission came to pass at the end of last year.

This mission indicates that space exploration is still a matter of international importance and status.

Berman, of St. Augustine, believes that we’re in a “new space race,” and that the moon just might be the next frontier.

He joined Melissa Ross on First Coast Connect to share more on what the New Space Race looks like, and what it could mean for Northeast Florida.

With space entrepreneur Robert Bigelow urging the U.S. to abandon the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and secure lunar resources, Berman says it looks like a race for those resources and control of the moon has just begun, with the U.S. stuck at the starting gate.

“I see the United States right now in sort of a similar situation as Europe was just before the early 1500s, sort of in a period of economic stagnation,” Berman said. “What changed everything was going out and discovering new lands.”

China's lunar rover Yutu ("Jade Rabbit") is seen by a camera on the country's Chang'e 3 lander after both successfully landed on the moon together on Dec. 14, 2013. It is China's first lunar rover mission and the first soft-landing on the moon in 37 years.
Credit CNTV

While Berman believes the U.S. can benefit politically and militarily from a competitive space program, he also thinks the First Coast could become a hub for space exploration industries.

“This area, in terms of our infrastructure, would virtually explode in terms of economic opportunities if we really had a serious commitment to develop space resources,” said Berman.

There are plans for a spaceport at Cecil Field on Jacksonville’s Westside, an indication of the possibility for future development in space exploration.

The question of whether these initiatives will garner the necessary political support still lingers.

“The political (action) will happen when the first Chinese astronauts step on the moon and plant their flag,” Berman said.

A Chinese manned mission could come as soon as 2017, and Berman thinks that this will create the spark needed to rekindle the U.S. investment in space exploration.

Berman also noted that the moon is a resource-rich frontier. The metals and rare earths on the moon can be mined and harvested, making it a domain of potential economic importance.

You can follow Melissa Ross on Twitter @MelissainJax and Aaron Badida @aaronbadida.