The Interpreter: The rising challenger is China. by Morris Jones
'The Tiangong 2 space laboratory (essentially a miniature space station) will fly at some point this year. China is fast-tracking plans for its own major space station, which should launch around 2018. International partners are being invited to join the Chinese Space Station. At some point, the CSS could become the world's only operational space station. China recently launched a dark matter astronomy satellite and is building a massive radio telescope on the ground. This 500-metre diameter dish will be the largest antenna in the world.
'Russia's space program mostly rests on the legacy of Soviet-era technology and infrastructure. Its internal problems are even worse than those of NASA. Europe is moving steadily. Japan is also quietly gaining ground.
'So much for national programs. The real action will come from the rise of private enterprise. A bitter rivalry has emerged between two US-based companies. Blue Origin and SpaceX have both demonstrated the ability to recover their rockets. This could bring down the cost of space travel, but it will take years for this capability to truly mature.'