China has become only the third nation in the world to have a manned space program. Photo: Chine

Can China enter the international space family?

10 Jan , 2011 by

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It has often been called a ‘100 billion boondoggle’ – yet it is also unquestionably one of the most successful international programs in human history. The International Space Station (ISS) is just now starting to produce some of the valuable science that was the station’s selling point from the beginning. However, this delay can be attributed to the numerous tragedies, economic woes and other issues that have arisen on a global scale through the course of the station’s construction.

The one thing that the world learned early on from the ISS experience is that space is a great forum for diplomacy. One time arch-rivals now work side by side on a daily basis.

With much of the nations of the world talking about stepped-up manned exploration efforts it would seem only natural that the successful model used on the space station be incorporated into the highly-expensive business of manned space exploration. If so, then one crucial player is being given a hard look to see if they should be included – China.

Will we one day see Chinese taikonauts working alongside U.S. astronauts and Russian cosmonauts? Only time will tell. Photo Credit: NASA

“International partnership in space exploration has proven its worth over the last decade. It would be a positive step if the other space-faring nation of the world, China, were to join the assembled space explorers of humankind as we march outward into the solar system,” said former NASA Space Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale who writes a popular blog about space matters.

China is only the third nation (behind Russia and the United States) to have a successful manned space program, having launched its first successful manned space flight in 2003. This first mission only had a single person onboard, and gave the world a new word – ‘taikonaut’ (taikong is the Chinese word for space). The country’s next mission contained two of these taikonauts and took place in 2005. The third and most current manned mission that China has launched was launched in 2008 and held a crew of three.

Yang Liwei became the first of China's Taikonaut when he rocketed into orbit in 2003. Photo Credit: Xinhua

China has steadily, but surely, built and tested capabilities essential for a robust manned space program. Considering that China very ambitious goals for space this would seem a prudent course of action. China has stated publically that they want to launch a space station and send their taikonauts to the moon – neither of which are small feats.

China currently utilizes its Shenzhou spacecraft atop the Long March 2F booster from their Jiuquan facility. However, if China wants to accomplish these goals, they will need a more powerful booster. This has been part of the reason that the U.S. has been hesitant to include China due to concerns about the use of what are known as dual-use technologies (rockets that can launch astronauts can also launch nuclear weapons).

Both China's rocket and spacecraft are derived from Soviet Soyuz designs. Photo Credit: Xinhua/Wang Jianmin

Some have raised concerns about the nation’s human rights track record. It should be noted however that Russia had similar issues before being included in the International Space Station program.

“In the early 1990’s, some at NASA thought having Russian cosmonauts on the Space Shuttle would mean giving away trade secrets to the competition,” said Pat Duggins, author of the book Trailblazing Mars. “It turned out Russian crew capsules saved the International Space Station when the Shuttles were grounded after the Columbia accident in 2003. So, never say never on China, I guess.”

Duggins is not the only space expert who feels that China would make a good companion when mankind once again ventures out past low-Earth-orbit.

“One of the findings of the Augustine Commission was that the international framework that came out of the ISS program is one of the most important. It should be used and expanded upon for use in international beyond-LEO human space exploration,” said Dr. Leroy Chiao a veteran of four launches and a member of the second Augustine Commission. “My personal belief is that countries like China, which is only the third nation able to launch astronauts, should be included. My hope is that the politics will align soon, to allow such collaboration, using the experience that the US has gained in working with Russia to bring it about.”

Not everyone is completely convinced that China will be as valuable an asset as the Russians have proven themselves to be however.

“It is an interesting scenario with respect to the Chinese participation in an international effort in space. The U.S. has made some tremendous strides in terms of historical efforts to bridge the gap with the Russians and the results have been superb,” said Robert Springer a two-time space shuttle veteran. “The work that has resulted in the successful completion of the International Space Station is an outstanding testimony to what can be done when political differences are set aside in the interest of International cooperation. So, there is a good model of how to proceed, driven somewhat by economic realities as well as politics. I am not convinced that the economic and political scenario bodes well for similar results with the Chinese. It is a worthwhile goal to pursue, but I am personally not convinced that a similar outcome will be the result, at least not in the current environment.”

China's journey into space has just begun, but it remains to be seen if they will be going it alone or as part of a partnership. Photo Credit: Xinhua

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tripleclean
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tripleclean
January 10, 2011 9:25 PM

Nope, sorry can’t enter the space family.Instead try ordering special #12 Happy Family.

Silver Thread
Member
Silver Thread
January 10, 2011 9:40 PM

They’re joining the family with or without our blessing. My Hope is that they’ll inspire some degree of interest in furthering interest in our local program here in the States, either way I would whole heartedly encourage the Chinese to pursue a future in space faring if for no other reason than to see some member of my species pick up the gauntlet and meet the challenge of manned space exploration.

The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
Member
The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
January 10, 2011 10:20 PM
Funny, I already thought that they had. Also, Robert Springer words here are a little skewed China is not suffering in the economic downturn occurring in the US. In fact, it is booming and growing in leaps and bounds. I’d be assuming he is softening the blow of the arrival of another space-fairing superpower. As for saying “China due to concerns about the use of what are known as dual-use technologies (rockets that can launch astronauts can also launch nuclear weapons)“, is frankly unnecessarily alarmist. Surely rockets design for human flight carry more weight and technology than one or a few nuclear weapons in some ICBM. The last question is why is China increasing its presence in apace.… Read more »
The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
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The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
January 10, 2011 10:22 PM

Last paragraph.
‘apace’ should read ‘space’….

Paul Eaton-Jones
Member
January 11, 2011 1:02 AM

Surely the original space race was founded on ‘dual use’ technology so let’s not get into the whole Red Menace garbage again. The East-West superpower struggle has moved on, slightly, from the naked idealogical dogma which characterised the late 1950’s onwards. The fact that there is cooperation between the U.S., Russia and China means there is less chance of lobbing ICBMs at each other. And HSBC says, they’re already here.

nick.sainsbury
Member
nick.sainsbury
January 11, 2011 3:06 AM

I completely agree with Paul Eaton-Jones. The costs and resources are so vast and the intentions so ambitious it seems insane not to set up some kind of world space programme to which those with the resources may contrubute. Surely the worst mistake would be the duplication of the necessary work due to the intransigence of the self-interested?

DenverC
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DenverC
January 11, 2011 5:22 AM

China is one of the leading nations when it comes to engineering and technology. I think that if they were to join the US and Russia it would make space exploration that more faster and efficient.

Of course theres the risk about the nuclear weapons but come on if they wanted nuclear weapons they can do it on there own.

__Denver.C__

Lawrence B. Crowell
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Lawrence B. Crowell
January 11, 2011 5:54 AM

China is a nuclear armed nation already. In fact they have fairly advanced delivery systems as well.

LC

Torbjorn Larsson OM
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Torbjorn Larsson OM
January 11, 2011 6:47 AM
I agree with HSBC et al on China/Russia. The International Space Station (ISS) is just now starting to produce some of the valuable science that was the station’s selling point from the beginning. I’ve said it before and I am no doubt having to say it many times in the future: ISS has delivered massive amounts of research even before being fully manned of late. IIRC some 200 papers in the first 5 years of operation, which considering the staff (and it having practically no time for research) would make any lab proud. (One can ask if it was a good output on money invested; but after all ISS is more than a research outpost.) You can find… Read more »
The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
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The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
January 11, 2011 7:08 AM
After some serious thought, I am disturbed by the article’s author using the word “boondoggle” — a term used for a scheme that wastes time and money — for the ISS. Could not such a word also be applied to the whole US space program as well? I mean, your country faces its worse economic crises for ages, the local unemployed has gone through the roof, and you have one of the worst records in regards poverty of any current Western nation. I fail to honestly see what has this to do with China’s space program? Are you expecting China here to take up the shortfall of manned exploration while the NASA and the commercial enterprises are creating… Read more »
Aqua4U
Member
January 11, 2011 3:45 PM

I think I’ll take a ‘wait and see’ approach on this one and hope in the mean time that the Chinese are using only the very best materials and tools because every other Chinese tool I’ve ever owned either broke or otherwise wore out or failed shortly after being put into service…. batteries, duct tape, plastic housings for tools, tools, baby formula(!), etc, etc… Om… cheesey construction and bad designs? in space? Good luck on that!

Nafin
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Nafin
January 11, 2011 2:52 PM
Honestly I am skeptical about China’s capacity to contribute as well. Given their history of catastrophic system failure (1995 and 1996 accidents involving Long March rockets) one instance of which claimed more lives than any other space related accident in history (I realize no space program is without its risks or accidents, but seriously? 80 houses? Maybe that wasn’t a great place to launch from…) and the fact that they are playing catch-up and generally aren’t too open to negotiation with the West on things like military and energy issues (two very important fields or orbital exploitation), it seems unlikely that collaboration is either probable or desirable. India on the other hand has been very good at attaching… Read more »
RUF
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RUF
January 11, 2011 3:28 PM

I see others said it too….
They already are a part of the “space family.”

RUF
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RUF
January 11, 2011 3:30 PM

Loved this: “space is a great forum for diplomacy.”

We should therefore launch the UN into space.

William928
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William928
January 11, 2011 4:41 PM

@AQUA: I concur completely. Jason, don’t take too much heed in HSBC’s comments, he’s practicing his anti-U.S. rhetoric again. Really Crumb, why don’t you stick to comments that demonstrate your obvious expertise in many areas of Astronomy and Cosmology, and back off on the repeated attacks on the United States. As I’ve said before, it’s growing tiresome.

The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
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The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
January 11, 2011 5:36 PM
I disagree. I have said nothing anti-US here. All I was doing is pointing out that some of the perspectives presented by the US space commentators assumes an awful lot. I.e. That China’s space goals are the same as the Russia and American. (They are not obligated to do space exploration on an international basis, BTW.) Worrying, for example, that China wants to use their space technology to develop some ICBM program to launch nuclear weapons, is far fetched at best. Did America development in its space program to go to the Moon in the 1960’s also to develop ICBM’s? Of course not. I am personally a strong proponent of the concept of international partnership in space exploration… Read more »
Uncle Fred
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Uncle Fred
January 11, 2011 9:39 PM

HSBC, this is the problem I have noticed in the US general discourse as of late. Anytime anyone mentions domestic problems, they are labeled anti-US, or somehow unpatriotic Americans.

I believe, this is an unfortunate result of right-wing elements within the country. These ideologues offer no solutions in their policy platforms. Thus these forces tend to try to “pretend these problems don’t exist” by decoupling their followers from reality.

All great ideas for political victories – bad ideas for the USA as a whole.

UF

Aqua4U
Member
January 12, 2011 3:00 PM

My lady love and I are both American’s, but lately have both been practicing a little anti-U.S. rhetoric here at home, especially after watching any evening’s news. SHE thinks that its WAY too late for the redemption of this country and that we should get the hell out! While I have faith that there are more good Americans than bad and that the ‘Old Gal’ will pull through with colors flying! As for someone reminding us of our folly’s, thanks for your concern…. we’re working on it!

wjwbudro
Member
wjwbudro
January 11, 2011 6:57 PM
@Crumb “Could not such a word also be applied to the whole US space program as well? I mean, your country faces its worse economic crises for ages, the local unemployed has gone through the roof, and you have one of the worst records in regards poverty of any current Western nation.” If we could call in every marker from around the globe and had any hope to collect, we would be able to continue the race and have a huge surplus to pay back our debts to boot! I won’t post any links but, the numbers are out there if you take the time to search and it is “astounding”! While I’m at it, I’d also pose… Read more »
The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
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The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
January 11, 2011 8:08 PM
Bit out of context; I referred to the word. “boondoggle” — a term used for a scheme that wastes time and money. All I said was if you claim that the IIS is “a scheme that wastes time and money.”, then the same could be implied for the “whole US space program.” Didn’t Representative Gabrielle Giffords* say on the 9th January on the passed Bill cancelling Constellation and signed off by President Obama,; “…forces NASA to build a rocket that doesn’t meet its needs, with a budget that’s not adequate to do the job and on a schedule that NASA’s own analysis says is unrealistic.” Is that not a boondoggle, too? As for my quote here, I suggest… Read more »
postman1
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postman1
January 11, 2011 8:15 PM
The Chinese always look far down the road, it is their culture. Their goal is always to benefit the Chinese first, all else is secondary. I’m not saying that is necessarily a bad thing, it is just the way it is. They are working at gaining full control of all production of rare earth minerals, as that is where the future wealth of the world will come from. They know that the moon is the next big source for the minerals and will be worth trillions, so they have to be certain that they are the ones to lay claim. I doubt seriously that they will truly be interested in any partnership if it means they may have… Read more »
The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
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The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
January 11, 2011 8:28 PM

True. As is saying;
“The Americans* always look far down the road, it is their culture. Their goal is always to benefit the Americans* first, all else is secondary. I’m not saying that is necessarily a bad thing, it is just the way it is.”

* Or substitute people of choice.

The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
Member
The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
January 11, 2011 8:26 PM

Oh, I forgot poverty;

Business Insider : 15 Shocking Facts About Poverty In America by Michael Snyder.

He says; “Already, millions upon millions of Americans are slipping out of the middle class and into the devastating grip of poverty. Statistic after statistic proves that the middle class in the United States is shrinking month after month after month.’

Do a Google search “poverty in america”, you’ll get 3.2 million hits!

* Note : Many other countries also are having similar problems with the poor and homeless, too. I have no intent of berating the US for this happening, and only wrote this to support my statements made here. If they are false, I’m quite happy to retract them.

The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
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The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
January 11, 2011 9:10 PM
It has just dawned on me what this article is about. It is like someone wanting to join a exclusive social club, who had the Committee of the organisation assessing its application for membership. However, in this case, the applicant hasn’t asked to be a member as yet, and hasn’t even written out the application form! Still the Committee wants to know if they are suitable for improving or advancing their said Club. The Chairman could be Congressman Frank Wolf, who once wrote; “It should go without saying that NASA has no business cooperating with the Chinese regime of human spaceflight. China is taking an increasingly aggressive posture globally, and their interests rarely intersect with ours.” I also… Read more »
The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
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The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
January 11, 2011 9:18 PM

The Congressman’s letter that were sent to President Obama, with some other useful info, appears in the link in the following article at; NASA Administrator’s China visit draws congressional ire – October 13, 2010.

Wolf makes perfectly clear of his objections. I.e.

I have just been made aware that NASA Administrator Bolden will be traveling to Beijing, China, this week to begin a dialogue on human space flight cooperation between NASA and the China National Space Administration (CNSA). I have grave concerns about the nature and goals of China’s space program and strongly oppose any cooperation between NASA and CNSA’s human space flight programs without Congressional authorization.

The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
Member
The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
January 11, 2011 9:26 PM

Also read the response of Lee Kapetanakis, which also supports some of the views (and fears) expressed by wjwbudro. Whilst I might disagree with his rebuttal of one of my earlier posts, his opinion appears to have been stated by others.
See; http://culberson.house.gov/bolden-in-beijing/

wjwbudro
Member
wjwbudro
January 12, 2011 11:35 AM
Sorry, I didn’t respond sooner but, some of us have a life outside this forum. “Bit out of context; I referred to the word. “boondoggle” — a term used for a scheme that wastes time and money. All I said was if you claim that the IIS is “a scheme that wastes time and money.”, then the same could be implied for the “whole US space program.” “As for the rest of your over-the-top patriotic vitriol, oh dear oh dear. Yes. America has done a lot of good in the world, and it also has done a lot of wrong things too. Same idea applies to many other countries. Let’s see. So what do you want to supplant… Read more »
The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
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The Eclectic Exterminator of Stupid Electricians
January 12, 2011 11:59 AM

As they say in World of Warcraft…
“Your arrogance will be your undoing.”

Give you evidence to back up my claims, and all you can do is pretend it is all an illusion. You poor sap!

Aqua4U
Member
January 12, 2011 3:13 PM

Arguing proper etiquette for the use of Chopsticks in space seems kind of frivolous, now doesn’t it? Actually, with a couple little ribbons and some velcro patches on the sleeves… you could keep track of them! HO!

wpDiscuz