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Will China's first space station usher in a new era of space competition?

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Post Last Edit by jamesgong at 2-9-2011 16:12

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China is set to launch the first step in its attempt to rival to the International Space Station, despite a recent rocket failure at launch.



The unmanned Tiangong 1 or "Heavenly Palace" is currently in the final preparation stages at Jiuquan space centre in northwest China.



The 8.5-ton test module could be launched "within the first 10 days of September" according to a Chinese space official.



Following the malfunction of a Chinese Long March II – C rocket last week (the third launch that week), it has seemed as though the launch may have been delayed.  However China is currently undertaking its space activities at a fervent pace and is hesitant to delay its space station ambitions.



This is not an issue apparently, as Qi Faren, chief designer for China's Shenzhou manned spacecraft, was quoted as saying the Long March II - F rocket that the module will launch on is a markedly different vehicle than the one that failed last Thursday, and so the Agency has no worries for the imminent launch.



If successful, it will dock with an unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft to be launched in two months time. Experts claim that this will mark a major technological achievement for China's space scientists.



Tiangong will act as a test for a future 60-ton space station which China aims to have in orbit by 2020. Officials have said that this space station will last for a decade and will support three taikonauts working on microgravity science, astronomy and space radiation biology.



Interestingly enough there is some significance in that date. 2020 is when the International Space Station is due to be decommissioned.



And this leads us to the question at hand. With the end of the space shuttle programme, and no current Nasa replacements for manned space flight, some people have suggested a perceived "wind down" of Nasa is taking place.



And with the rate at which China is conducting its space activities, some have suggested that China could become the new space superpower.


A Chinese rocket launchSince its first manned spaceflight 2003 followed by the first Taikonaut spacewalk in 2008, China has been racking up the space achievements.



The People's Liberation Army certainly talks at length about achieving "space dominance", which of course has implications for everything from scientific endeavour to space-based defence systems.



However others are more sceptical about China's potential ascendency to space dominance.



We must remember that while the pace of advancement is impressive, these achievements are largely covering old technological ground. Even this latest endeavour - the planned docking of Tiangong with an unmanned craft - is incredibly reminiscent of Nasa's Gemini programme 45 years ago.



Real interest will be sparked if and when China reaches a landmark that no other space-faring nation has achieved.



So, will China become the dominant space-faring nation? There is certainly a long way to go, and much technological advancement to be made before that happens.  The world will however be paying very close attention to this young but eager space competitor.



And what about India? That is a topic for another blog...




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Should other countries fear the threat of Chinese 'space dominance'?

In the next couple of weeks China is about to take its first major step towards building a Space Station, the latest in a series of achievements in space that follow its first manned flight in 2003 and a spacewalk in 2008. Like the sea-trials of China’s first aircraft carrier earlier this month, you can expect there to be a lot of heavy and fashionable analysis about how this portends America’s gradual slide and China’s inexorable rise.


But like the carrier, China’s space exploits in many ways highlight just how far China has to go to catch up technologically with the West. Space experts say that if successful, the docking of the Tiangong-1 “or Heavenly Palace” module with a Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft will actually mimic technology used in the US Gemini program some 45 years ago.


So nothing to worry about for now? Well, not quite.


Those who analyse the writings of the People’s Liberation Army say that they talk about achieving “space dominance”, with potentially very serious consequences for the effectiveness of the US war machine which increasingly relies on the supply of real-time information relayed through space.


China’s shooting down of satellite in 2007 without warning, and apparently wrong-footing the country’s diplomats, is one signal among many that China’s space ambitions – like its military ambitions – could do with some clarification, for everyone’s peace of mind.


China has said it is determined to develop its own technologies and standards, both in space and in the military, which of course makes sense strategically, but begs its own set of questions about the assumptions (in both Beijing and Washington) that underpin China’s “peaceful rise”.


In a paper published this month, Dean Cheng, a research fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, a Washington-based think tank, enumerates some of the reasons for concern over China’s space program and recommends the US military takes some urgent safeguards.


These include, for example, practising military manoeuvres in the “dark” – ie if the war-net goes down – and creating a back-up system that is not reliant on uninterrupted access to space, but on alternative standby satellites or high-altitude, long endurance drones.


That might be sound advice, but at the same time, I have a basic faith that the US war-gamers will probably do what is necessary to protect their technological edge, so there isn’t any need to panic quite yet.


But still, there’s no doubt this launch, when it happens, will be seen (both in China and abroad) as a motif of a the current direction of travel: when China completes its space station in 2020 or so, the International Space Station will just be being decommissioned.


I don’t imagine it is just space-nuts and Pentagon lobbyists who will find that thought faintly unnerving.  (Telegraph)


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forum.china.org.cn

It's really weird but the experiments have a good probability of success. Look, the Japanese have made tissues transparent with simple photo-processing chemicals. When you bring this to the Tiangong 1, there is a unique opportunity to work with laser optics studying biometric growth properties in microgravity environments.



However, the astronomy and space radiation part wouldn't be that exciting considering the fact any experiments would be redundant to a certain extent. Most astrophysicists are glued on the big bang and no matter how hard you try, they will never understand the beauty of nature.  Chinese taikonauts will have to contemplate other things like short-lived phenomena in and around the new autonomous spacecraft to keep busy.



Since there are no limits to or monopolies on space technologies other than claiming the practice of orbiting patented equipment, the concept of "space dominance" is a joke. One can expect that China is ultimately interested in lunar exploration and the Tiangong 1 is a huge step in that direction.

Sorry..USA is 50 years ahead of China on Space Travel
ANd Light Years ahead on most other things....
ANd Light Years ahead on most other things....
SnappySammy Post at 13-9-2011 12:31
AND has a very big ego.
5# Lyl
China does not need to compare with US or any other countries regarding its space program.
It is a natural path for China to take. And no one else business. Why US is so worry about China when
they have their space station and China was not even invite to participate like Japan has and they even
put an Indian woman to the space station. China must just carry on whether for military or civilian purposes
in space and China is going to own the space ultimately.
US seems to have everything light year ahead of China according to some
readers here.  When a country is so badly in debt things are going to be light year
behind with more and more people there cant read and cant count.  Only thing they have
is delusion that they are the greatest and clawing back past glory while sleeping on the street. Sad
US seems to have everything light year ahead of China according to some
readers here.  When a country is so badly in debt things are going to be light year
behind with more and more people there cant  ...
urabus Post at 21-9-2011 17:39
So true. Some americans still live in the 1950ies mind wise. And then again they look on Europe and say we (the Europeans) are responsible for their (USA) bad economy and debt crisis. But who started the debt crisis in the first place?

Who on Earth has the biggest debt? USA or Europe? And then Obama comes and tells us Euro guys what we have to do and whatnot. How about cleaning up their own mess in front of their own yard first? Would be more credible.
Personally, I think it is really important for China to extend into space.  It is important for their nation’s development and greater sense of purpose on the global stage. It will also be interesting to see what new directions will come from their endeavors and imagination. Different peoples have different ways of thinking,, and different solutions and directions in progress are the results of such diversity.   As an American I admit openly U.S.A started this world economic crisis and it is the result of the previous administration (Bush) and Republican way of doing things.  Obama, was handed an impossible task and it is still difficult.  The Republicans have fought him at every turn when he has tried to fix things here.  It is still the Republicans (Richest people in the nation, and world) taking money from everyone else in our nation,,, including the rest of the world.  I am sad to admit these truths.  Please try to keep this thread on China and their glorious endeavor towards space.  Congratulations China!!
Personally, I think it is really important for China to extend into space.  It is important for their nation’s development and greater sense of purpose on the global stage. It will also be interesting to see what new directions will come from their endeavors and imagination. Different peoples have different ways of thinking,, and different solutions and directions in progress are the results of such diversity.   As an American I admit openly U.S.A started this world economic crisis and it is the result of the previous administration (Bush) and Republican way of doing things.  Obama, was handed an impossible task and it is still difficult.  The Republicans have fought him at every turn when he has tried to fix things here.  It is still the Republicans (Richest people in the nation, and world) taking money from everyone else in our nation,,, including the rest of the world.  I am sad to admit these truths.  Please try to keep this thread on China and their glorious endeavor towards space.  Congratulations China!!
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