It looks as if astronauts, cosmonauts, or yuhangyuan as we will soon learn to call them, will before long have to cope with only one measurement system in space as the US winds down its programme and China takes its place.
The Guardian reported on 29 September 2011 about the shift of leadership in space that is now taking place:
Michael Griffin, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, has raised concerns about a new space race and called China, which wants to put a robot on the Moon in 2013 and build its own space station for 2015, “a near-peer competitor”. He has also said “When the Chinese can reach the Moon and we cannot, I do not see why any other nation would regard us as a world leader” .
A muddle of measurement units in space hardware was inevitable when the US responded to the successful launch of Sputnik 1 by the Russians on 4 October 1957. But it seems as if this period is now drawing to a close.
This was not at all what the barons had in mind when they wrote in Magna Carta in 1215 “let there be one measure”. Nor is it a giant leap for mankind, perhaps just a small step in the world’s changeover to SI. But would-be British astronauts can at last dispose of their Whitworth/ISO inch spanners.