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US playing catch-up with China in space race: USAF general

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The Long March 7 rocket carrying the Tiangong-2 module blasts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, northwest China's Gansu Province, Sept. 15, 2016. (Photo by AP)

The United States has fallen behind China in “operationalizing space,” says a high-ranking US Air Force general, calling for a more aggressive and less bureaucratic approach to catch up. 

Lieutenant General Steve Kwast, the commander and president of Air University at the Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, told CNBC that China’s space program could cause a national security problem for America.

 “In my best military judgment, China is on a 10-year journey to operationalize space. We’re on a 50-year journey,” the general said, according to Breitbart report on Monday. “We could be on a five-year journey because it’s all about how aggressively we are going about this journey.”

Kwast said Washington needed to “bring together the right talent to accelerate the journey.”

One way to do so, he said, was by cutting down on government regulations and bureaucratic measures that slowed down space programs, specially for private companies like Space X.

“You have to detail everything in your suitcase – each item's material, manufacturer, weight and more – the government takes a year to go through it and then tells you what you can and can't take,” Kwast said. “If you have to update your request, then you have to start all over.”

In March, US President Donald Trump signed a bill securing funding required for NASA to send a “crewed mission to Mars in the 2030s.”

This is while, China has planned to land a vehicle on Mars by 2020.

China’s space force, N Korea’s missiles

Elsewhere, the USAF general described China’s plans for a space force as well as North Korea’s ability to destroy US assets in the space as two real challenges that the US was faced with.

“China is working on building a ‘navy in space’ that would work even beyond Earth’s gravity,” Kwast said, referring to 2015 Washington Post reports about China’s alleged readiness for space warfare.

Citing military analysts, Times claimed back then that China was actively testing anti-satellite missiles and near-space hypersonic vehicles.

Kwast also implied that North Korea had obtained technology required to target American satellites orbiting the Earth.

“Right now, if North Korea were to launch a missile into space and detonate an electromagnetic pulse, it would take out our eyes in space,” he warned.

The statements came amid tensions between the US and the North over Pyongyang’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapon programs.

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