The Americans and Russians are working together in space. And now the Chinese want to play, too! China plans to send a man into orbit to celebrate 50 years of the Republic.
Will they succeeed?
by Chuck Wu
Two Chinese astronauts had completed training at Russia’s Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre at the end of last year,according to recent new releases in China.
China has carried out tests for a manned space flight at a launch site recently, it said without giving details.
China last month announced plans to put a man into space and launch a lunar probe by early next century. It gave no details of the manned space flight program, which has been on the drawing board for years.
Analysts have said China did not have the technology or funds for a manned space flight in the near future.
China will also launch a lunar probe by early next century in what analysts said could be a drive to seek a role in international space projects.
Outlining China’s space program to a gathering of foreign scientists in Beijing, Ma Xingrui, vice president of the Chinese Academy of Space Technology, said China would focus on practical spacecraft as well as a manned voyage.
“China is striving to make breakthroughs in manned space flight technology at the end of this century or the beginning of the next century, and will launch a small lunar probe when possible,” the China Daily quoted Ma as saying.
Ma gave no details of the manned spaceflight program, which has been on the drawing boards for years. Analysts said the goal of a Chinese astronaut was far off for China, which still lacked money and technology to become a space-faring nation.
“They have photobooks of what they’re doing and one of them shows a dog that I guess they are testing for space flight, so I suspect they are between the dog and human stage,” said one analyst who declined to be identified.
Beijing was likely trying to lay the groundwork for future cooperation with big space powers such as the United States, Europe, Russia and Japan, the analyst said. “China really doesn’t have a lot to offer in terms of money or technology or experience in space programs that other countries don’t already possess in larger abundance,” he said. “It’s possible that they may be trying to get some sort of track record that would enable them to start participating more in these international projects,” he said.
The program has already gained much success. For example, a rice variety developed in an outer space experiment has had an experimental yield of over 600 kilograms per mu (1/15 hectare), an increase of 70 percent over older types. A new variety of green pepper produced nearly 5,000 kilograms per mu, a 100 percent increase.
Ma said China would continue to provide launch services for international customers and would strive to build high-powered communications satellites as well as environmental and scientific orbiters. “Our goal for space exploration is to set up several application satellite systems which are badly needed by the national economy and can operate stably for a long term,” Ma said. “China will also develop new satellites and some new types of other spacecrafts to meet the demands of domestic users,” Ma said without elaborating.
China put its first satellite into orbit in 1970 and bills its rockets as cheap alternatives to U.S., European and Japanese launch vehicles. U.S. company Loral Space & Communications Ltd this week signed a satellite launching deal with China. The Great Wall Industry Corp is to carry out five launches for Loral between March 1998 and March 2002 using the Long March Three B rocket.
All of China’s launches were successful last year, but its showcase Long March rocket series has a troubled record. The first Long March 3B exploded shortly after take-off in February 1996, killing at least six people on the ground. In another disaster, a Long March rocket placed a $120 million Chinese satellite in the wrong orbit in August 1996, leaving it drifting hopelessly in space. China lost a Long March 2E in January 1995 in an accident that killed a family of six in a rain of fiery debris.