Monday, January 2, 2012

China's Space Ambitions

China is shooting for the moon in an effort to become a major player in the long-dormant space race.

A newly released five-year plan outlines Beijing's goals of developing new rockets, satellites, and embarking on deep-space navigation. Longer-term, the aim is to have a global satellite-positioning system in place, construct a space station, and eventually to put a man on the moon.

Clean-burning fuels will power its next-generation rockets, which will launch heavy cargos into space, according to details of the program released by the government this week.

China's space program has already made major breakthroughs in a relatively short time. In 2003, it became the third country to launch its own astronaut -- known as a "Taikonaut" -- into space, and five years later, completed a spacewalk.

Despite the advances, in terms of experience China lags far behind the United States and Russia, which engaged in a Cold War-era "Space Race" for decades.

But while the emphasis on space has waned in those countries, China has placed a premium on the development of its space industry, which is seen as a symbol of national prestige.

Wang Xuhui, a senior scientist at China's Institute of Aerospace System Science and Engineering, contributed to writing the report, known as a "white paper."

"It is a powerful policy. The new edition of the 'white paper' issued today reaffirms China's aim and principle of [the] peaceful use of outer space," Wang said.

"It helps people to fully understand our policy; [and thus] reduce misunderstandings and enhance mutual trust."

Some elements of China's program, notably the firing of a ground-based missile into one of its dead satellites four years ago, have alarmed U.S. officials and others, who fear the militarization of the space race.

That the program is run by the military has made the United States reluctant to cooperate with China in space, even though the latter insists its program is purely for peaceful ends.

Source: reveals_space_plan/24438267.html

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