China spacecraft launches on key mission

Oct 31, 2011
China's Long March-2F/H rocket carrying the unmanned spacecraft Shenzhou VIII blasts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre on November 1.

China launched an unmanned spacecraft on Tuesday to carry out a key docking mission, taking its next step towards the goal of building its first space station by 2020.

The Shenzhou VIII blasted off from the Gobi desert in China's northwest at 5:58 am (2158 GMT) before separating from its carrier rocket about 200 kilometres (120 miles) above the Earth, the state Xinhua news agency said.

It is due to join with the Tiangong-1 or "Heavenly Palace" experimental module in two days, in what would be the country's first space docking -- a key step in China's ambitious space programme.

The ability to dock successfully is crucial to the success of China's plans to build a space station where astronauts can live for several months, as they do on the International Space Station.

The technology is hard to master because the two vessels, placed in the same orbit and revolving around Earth at 28,000 kilometres per hour, must come together progressively to avoid destroying each other.

China sees its space programme as a symbol of its global stature, growing technical expertise, and the Communist Party's success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation.

It began its manned spaceflight programme in 1990 after buying Russian technology and in 2003 became the third country to send humans into space, after the former Soviet Union and the United States.

In September 2008, the Shenzhou VII, piloted by three astronauts, carried out China's first space walk.

The launch of Tiangong-1 on September 29 -- ahead of China's National Day on October 1 -- was attended by Premier Wen Jiabao, while President Hu Jintao watched from a space flight control centre in Beijing.

But Beijing is playing catch-up in the space arena. The planned space docking will only emulate what the Americans and Russians achieved in the 1960s.

The Global Times newspaper said the benefits of China's investment in space technology were not yet clear, but that the country had "no choice" other than to pursue its exploration programme.

"As long as we are determined to rise in the world and pursue rejuvenation, we need to take risks. Otherwise China will be a nation with prosperity but subordinated to top powers," it said in an editorial on Tuesday.

Graphic on the launch of the Shenzhou VIII in China, set to rendezvous with a vessel already in orbit, in the next step towards building a space station by 2020.

But it called for a "well-balanced" approach to space exploration, saying the money spent might be more urgently needed elsewhere in China, where the World Bank says 150 million people are still living on less than $1.25 a day.

Xinhua said the docking would take place 343 kilometres above the surface of the Earth. The spacecraft will return to Earth after two docking operations.

If it is a success, China will launch another two spacecraft next year to conduct more docking experiments.

At least one will be manned, and two female astronauts are among those being trained for the mission, according to Xinhua. If they are chosen, they will be the first women China has sent into space.

"Space exploration activities would be incomplete without participation of female astronauts," said Chen Shanguang, director of the Astronaut Center of China.

Tuesday's launch was attended by Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang, as well as senior experts from the European Space Agency and the German Aerospace Center, Xinhua reported.

German and Chinese scientists will conduct joint life science and gravity experiments on the Shenzhou VIII, it said.

China plans to launch a space laboratory before 2016, and hopes to have a space station in orbit capable of accommodating long-term stays in space by around 2020, officials have said.

China's space station will be made up of a module, two laboratories, a cargo ship and a manned rocket, state media have said.

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User comments : 11

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Vendicar_Decarian
0.6 / 5 (41) Oct 31, 2011
They learn fast don't they?

Meanwhile In America...

Long Lines Form for Gas
Drivers in towns that have no power are heading to nearby communities for gas.

http://www.nbccon....html?dr
Mezrael
3 / 5 (2) Oct 31, 2011
There are no long line for gas.. What delusions are you suffering from?
Vendicar_Decarian
0.9 / 5 (44) Oct 31, 2011
"There are no long line for gas.." - Mezeral

Are you kidding? It's all over the right wing blogs. An example of how Obama has destroyed America.

They wouldn't be lying would they?
omatumr
1.8 / 5 (8) Oct 31, 2011
China began its manned spaceflight programme in 1990 after buying Russian technology and in 2003 became the third country to send humans into space, after the former Soviet Union and the United States.


Which countries have the ability "to send humans into space" today?
MarkyMark
5 / 5 (1) Nov 01, 2011
China began its manned spaceflight programme in 1990 after buying Russian technology and in 2003 became the third country to send humans into space, after the former Soviet Union and the United States.


Which countries have the ability "to send humans into space" today?

The Ruskies for one, also anyone else who can afford to strap a life support module to a rocket.
Nerdyguy
4 / 5 (4) Nov 01, 2011
They learn fast don't they?

Meanwhile In America...

Long Lines Form for Gas
Drivers in towns that have no power are heading to nearby communities for gas.

http://www.nbccon....html?dr


Ummm....not whip out those crazy old "facts" on Vendicar, but what in the name of all that is holy does this have to do with anything in the article?

In response to an article on Chinese space exploration, you have posted an article regarding the long gas lines created by a freak early-winter snowstorm in the U.S. that caught many off-guard.

Certainly there's a logical explanation.
Nerdyguy
5 / 5 (3) Nov 01, 2011
China began its manned spaceflight programme in 1990 after buying Russian technology and in 2003 became the third country to send humans into space, after the former Soviet Union and the United States.


Which countries have the ability "to send humans into space" today?


I know you were being rhetorical, but it is an interesting question.

Obviously, there's the U.S., Russia and now China.

But the interesting developments, IMO, are in places like: Japan, India, and the E.U. Sooner or later, and I'd venture a guess that it will be less than 20 years, all of these will announce some early attempt at a manned program. It's just getting too cheap and the technology is getting more efficient and safe every day.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.6 / 5 (38) Nov 01, 2011
"Ummm....not whip out those crazy old "facts" on Vendicar" - NerdGuy

Conservatives spend far too much time trying to Hide the Decline in the U.S. economy.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.6 / 5 (38) Nov 02, 2011
"Obviously, there's the U.S., Russia and now China." - NerdGuy

America has no capacity to send men into space, and does not deserve to be on the list.
Nerdyguy
5 / 5 (5) Nov 02, 2011
"Obviously, there's the U.S., Russia and now China." - NerdGuy

America has no capacity to send men into space, and does not deserve to be on the list.


Yikes! We can agree on this. Yes, you are correct of course. And to your point about the economy - it's related (to our space endeavors). We're in a tailspin, no question.
omatumr
Nov 02, 2011
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
hard2grep
not rated yet Nov 05, 2011
We really need a moon base.

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