News / Asia

China Moves Toward Permanent Space Presence

Visitors sit besides a model of Chinese made Tiangong 1 space station at the 8th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, known as Airshow China 2010, in Zhuhai city, south China, Guangdong province (2010 File)
Visitors sit besides a model of Chinese made Tiangong 1 space station at the 8th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, known as Airshow China 2010, in Zhuhai city, south China, Guangdong province (2010 File)
TEXT SIZE - +
Ivan Broadhead

China is expected to launch its Tiangong 1 space laboratory in the coming days. A country that only eight years ago put its first taikonaut (astronaut) into orbit could, in eight more years, be the only country to possess a permanently-crewed space station.

Chinese media report that the Tiangong 1, or “Heavenly Palace”, is being readied for flight at the Jiuquan launch facility in Inner Mongolia.

The module represents the first element of China’s plan to develop a manned space station, which Beijing hopes will be fully operational by 2020.

Professor Kwing-Lam Chan of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology is involved in analysis of China’s lunar program. He explains the objective of this first Tiangong mission:   

“It’s a lab for testing the connection between spacecraft: Shenzhou 8 will be sent [up] probably this year, and will be connected to Tiangong 1 for testing, but will not carry people,” he said.

State media report that China’s space program aims to enhance the country’s “progress, power and prestige”.

Under military authority, it has advanced rapidly despite European Union and U.S. embargoes on trading in defense-related technologies with China.

The Shenzhou spacecraft emerged from Russian Soyuz technology in the late 1990s. A first manned space mission for China followed in 2003, making a national hero of the taikonaut Colonel Yang Liwei.

Professor K.L. Yung of Hong Kong Polytechnic University is helping develop equipment that China will use on the Moon next year.

He suggests that while China’s space program is no more advanced those of other space-faring nations, a team of elite engineers and scientists is making incremental and cost-effective progress.

“The main reason is obviously salaries in China are not that high. The other reason is, they are developing a lot of their own components because of the high-tech embargo; it actually helps them.”

With the International Space Station, funded by Russia, the United States, Canada, Japan and the EU, slated for retirement in 2020, Yung points out that China could soon emerge as the only nation with a permanent, manned space platform.

The potential for such a strategic advantage in space, aligned with China’s ballooning defense budget, is causing international concern.

Last week, the U.S. Defense Department published its annual report on China’s military capabilities.  The report concluded that Beijing is developing “extensive space warfare technologies".

The report also found little evidence that “China’s leaders have fully thought through the global effects of employment of these strategic capabilities”.

Although Beijing insists it “opposes the weaponization of space”, India, Japan and Korea continue to play catch up with their own indigenous space programs.

However, Chan is convinced China is receptive to cooperation, on its terms:

“I am very impressed by the quality of the people on the space enterprise in China and I believe they want to collaborate, on equal grounds.”

Tiangong 1 is at least the fourth space launch China has conducted since mid-August. However, the ambitious pace of the launch schedule is now under scrutiny after August 18th, when an experimental orbiter launched from Jiuquan failed to enter orbit when the rocket carrying it malfunctioned.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid