If you look at how much nations spend on space, you might get the impression that America continues to dominate the exploration of outer space:

NASA - $16.6 billion
US DoD Space - $22.5 billion
European Space Agency - $3.5 billion
Russian Space Agency - $1.1 billion
Chinese Space Budget - $1.35 billion

But it is also interesting too look at a snapshot of actualy activity. I looked up all the missions launched into space in the year 2006 and catagorized them by type of mission, launch vehicle:

Deep Space:
New Horizon - Atlas V
Stereo A & B - Delta II

Geosynchronous Satellites:
Hot Bird 7A & Spainsat - Ariane 5
Satmex 6 & Thaicom 5 - Ariane 5
JCAT 3A & Syracuse 3B - Ariane 5
WildBlue 1 & AMC 18 - Ariane 5
DirectTV 9S & Optus D1 - Ariane 5
Astra 1KR - Atlas V
Zhongxign 22A - Chang Zheng 3A
Xinnuo 2 - Chang Zheng 3B
MITEX - Delta II
GOES 13 - Delta IV
Insat - GSLV (Indian) FAILED
Kiku-8 - H-IIA
Arabsat 4B - Proton
Measat 3 - Proton
Arabsat 4A - Proton FAILED
Hotbird 8 - Proton
Kazsat - Proton
Echostar 10 - Zenit Sea Launch
JCSAT 9 - Zenit Sea Launch
Galaxy 16 - Zenit Sea Launch
Koreasat 5 - Zenit Sea Launch
XM Radio 4 - Zenit Sea Launch

Manned Missions & ISS Supply:
Soyuz TMA-8 - Soyuz
Progress M-56 - Soyuz
Progress M-57 - Soyuz
Soyuz TMA-9 - Soyuz
Progress M-58 - Soyuz
STS-121 - Space Shuttle Discovery
STS-115 - Space Shuttle Atlantis
STS-116 - Space Shuttle Discovery

Military Satellites:
DMSP 5D-3 - Delta IV
NROL-21 - Delta IV
NROL-22 - Delta II
Navstar GPS IIR-M2 - Delta II
Navstar GPS IIR-M3 - Delta II
IGS Optical 2 (Japan) - H-IIA
SAR-Lupe 1 (Germany) - Kosmos
Kosmos-2424, 2425, 2426 - Proton (Glonass-M GPS)
Arirang-2 (S Korea) - Rokot (Russian ICBM)
Kosmos-2420 - Soyuz
Kosmos-2423 - Soyuz
Meridian 11L - Soyuz
Kosmos-2422 - Soyuz
Kosmos-2421 - Tsiklon-2

LEO Non-Military Satellites:
SJ-6 - Chang Zheng 4B
Feng Yun 2D - Chang Zheng 3A
Yaogan 1 - Chang Zheng 4B
Shi Jian 8 - Chang Zheng 2C
Cloudsat & Calipso - Delta II
Genesis-1 (Bigelow) - Dnepr
18 small satellites - Dnepr FAILED
Falconsat-1 - Falcon 1 FAILED
Daichi - H-IIA (Japenese Delta II)
Daichi - H-IIA
Akari - M-V (Japanese solid fuel rocket)
FORMOSAT 3 - Minotaur 1
Tacsat 2 & Genesat-1 - Minotaur 1
ST-5 - Pegasus
Compass-2 - Shtil 1 (Russian ICBM)
Resurs-DK - Soyuz
Metop 2 - Soyuz
COROT - Soyuz
EROS B - Start 1 (Russian ICBM)

This reveals a slightly different picture. In the area of commercial geosynchronous satellites, Russia (with Proton and Zenit rockets) and Europe (with Ariane) dominate. A wide variety of Russian rockets are active in every class of space activity, while the American rockets are used only by NASA an the military.

A big portion of NASA’s large budget is supporting the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station, while our competators are spending less and dominating all other aspects of space — in particular all profitable uses of space.

American technology is still the most advanced, and NASA/JPL so far leads in recent deep-space scientific missions to Mercury, Mars, Saturn, and Pluto. American rocket technology is first rate (Delta and Altas), but the Delta rocket engine was the first major engine developed in the US since the shuttle main engines in the 1970s. The Altas uses a Russian engine — the advanced and highly efficient RD-180.

China still remains far behind in rocket technology, missions and budget. It will be exciting if they carry out the bold Lunar missions they have announced, but thus far it is all talk and no action.