The Race to the Moon: Two Approaches Light Years Apart

The Isle of Man and China almost couldn't be more different. According the CIA World Factbook, one is a parliamentary democracy in Europe measuring 572 km sq whose biggest business is low tax-driven offshore banking and gambling. The other is a nearly 10 million km sq rising superpower with a market-oriented communist government and seemingly whatever business it wants.

However, despite these stark contrasts, these two nations have something in common; they are both considered to be front runners in the race to space. They can also be considered to be the contrasting sides in a referendum on funding space exploration, with approaches differing almost as much as their CIA profiles.

The Isle of Man has stimulated its space program by providing an accommodating business environment where innovators have been able to headquarter and work on development. Despite a lack of government spending, the favorable tax regime has allowed private companies to flourish. Meanwhile, the Chinese program is backed by the wealth of the state, and is seen by the government as a prestige piece in the nation's development plans, not unlike the NASA program was for the US during the Cold War.

Ah, the US. Some may be wondering where this pioneering nation of space travel fits into the picture. Well, the US has been making moves as well. In the absence of a solid plan to the return to the moon, NASA is rather in the process of developing rules for moon tourism that it will have no legal or practical ability to enforce. And people say America is a superpower in decline...

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