China wants to dock in space
A Chinese spacesuit is displayed at the Shanghai Science & Technology Museum.
March 23rd, 2012
12:01 AM ET

China wants to dock in space

Watch out, America. China is steadily catching up in space.

Between June and August this year, China plans to send three astronauts aboard the Shenzhou-9 for manual docking of the spacecraft with Tiangong 1, a space lab that has been orbiting the Earth since September.

One of the astronauts will not board the space lab, media reports say, but will remain inside the spacecraft in case of emergency.

It will be China’s first crew expedition involving manual docking.

The mission may include a female astronaut, an official in China's manned space program said last weekend.

Niu Hongguang, deputy commander in chief of the space program and a delegate to China's legislature now meeting in Beijing, said the initial roster of astronauts training for the manned mission includes women.

He said the final choices for the three-person crew will be made "on the very last condition."

If all goes as planned, China will become only the third nation, next to the U.S. and Russia, to dock capsules in space.

Since putting a man in space in 2003, China's space program has made a lot of progress.

Docking in space "... demonstrates China's continued commitment to becoming a first-class space power with an independent space capability," said Taylor Fravel, an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "This is a very exclusive club."

The Chinese space program is largely run by government-owned enterprises or military-affiliated groups. Many of the pilots, scientists and engineers are active or demobilized army officers.

China promises to never use space research for military purposes. Said Qi Faren, the chief designer of the Shenzhou spaceship series: "All China is doing is to pursue a peaceful development of the space industry as planned."

Still, experts say, the U.S. remains concerned. "Over 95% of space technology is dual use, meaning of value to both civil and military communities," said Joan Johnson-Freese of the U.S. Naval War College. "While the U.S. is still far ahead of China technically, China has something critical that the U.S. does not - the political will to push forward."

soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Zenon

    When will the Tek RMD be available in the USA?

    April 4, 2013 at 12:40 am |
  2. Adrine

    The answer is impsle. China has many talented scientists who were educated in the United States and other western countries . And the CCP prefers to spend money on feats that will get them glory instead of on projects of substance, like feeding China's hungry children, providing social security benefits, and medical care for underprivileged and aged.

    April 8, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
  3. Marco de Baar

    Reblogged this on activescience and commented:
    "China has something critical that the US does not – the political will to push forward." Dat geldt niet alleen voor space, maar ook voor andere takken van big science....

    March 25, 2012 at 7:22 am |
  4. intothemoonbeam

    China continues to catch up to the United States in space exploration and science. Meanwhile back here in the United States we are spending more on air conditioners for military tents than the entire one year budget for NASA. NASA is only 0.6% of the US budget. In addition to that we have states passing bills to teach creationism rather than evolution and telling our kids that global warming is a hoax. If the Santorum supporters have their way then eventually we will be at the bottom of the rest of the world in terms of Science and Space exploration.

    Sad.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • nice

      You try being in a tent in a desert that is 100+ in the summer time, away from your family not knowing if you will get the oppritunity to see them again. I would like to see what you say about that then. Tell me what have you contributed to the science communtiy that will ensure the US stays on top?

      March 23, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
      • intothemoonbeam

        I never said they didn't need AC but spending more on an AC tent then on space exploration and science is idiotic. I also never said we should eliminate AC tents but what I am saying is that the amount of money put into science and space exploration should exceed that of AC tents. And yes I do plenty of the Science community. I teach it so our youth can aspire to be the next generation of scientists and explorers. In addition to that, I'm out there everyday fundraising and trying to raise awareness about the importance of science to our country.

        March 26, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
      • nice

        sure you do, what fundraisers would these be?

        March 26, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
      • nice

        and so we should choose who gets AC for their tents and who doesn't, get real buddy. but for you it wouldn't matter if it wasn't AC units then it would be something else. don't get me wrong I would like to see the budget for NASA increased as well, our future should be invested in science and if you are a science teacher then good on you, I hope you can really connect and inspire future scientists. but AC is short term you really want to make a difference then have the welfare system reformed so that you have to earn it and not a system to keep people addicted to it. then take the money saved from it and placed in a system that would benefit everyone and not just the lazy (I know that’s not everyone on it but the vast majority).

        March 26, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
      • Been there done that

        You're not really doing our soldiers a favor by not letting them acclimatize to the area. You can bet the enemy soldiers won't be staying in air conditioned tents. I admit certain tents like hospital tents should have them, or tents where the people are required to be in them all day with the flaps down, such and command and control tents, but other wise let them sweat and drink lots of water. It’s called tough love.

        April 3, 2012 at 2:35 pm |

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