Next goals: Permanent space lab, and moon
By Zhao Huanxin (chinadaily.com.cn)
Updated: 2005-10-12 09:32
Two years, two big steps being made, and another Chinese move towards the
moon is in the making.
The successful launch of China's second manned spacecraft at 9 am this
morning, almost two years after the country's maiden manned mission in 2003, has
fuelled bigger dreams of space exploration.
Following the multiple days of space flight by the two astronauts Fei Junlong
and Nie Haisheng, China plans to stage space walks and the docking of capsule
with space module in the years ahead, sources with the country's Manned Space
Program Office said.
The earliest space walks are scheduled for 2007, Sun Laiyan, chief of the
China National Space Administration, told China Daily earlier.
Based on breakthroughs in technology related to the efforts, China will move
to send a space lab into orbit to be temporally attended by scientists.
Accessory space engineering system will be also established for the purpose, the
The efforts constitute the second stage of China's manned space program,
which was formally kicked off in 1992.
In the first stage, China became the third nation, following Russia and the
United States, to succeed in manned space flight when it launched the Shenzhou V
in October 2003, carrying sole astronaut Yang Liwei around the earth 14 times in
his one-day flight.
Four unmanned Shenzhou spaceships had been launched between November 1999 and
December 2002 to precede Yang's space trip.
In the third stage, China plans to set up a permanent space lab, and build
its space engineering system, which allows astronauts and scientists to shuttle
between the Earth and space station to conduct large-scale scientific
experiments, the space program office said in a statement.
"Completion of the `three-stage' plan of China's manned space program will
enable Chinese astronauts and scientists to conduct space activities regularly,
and lay a solid foundation for China to make peaceful use of space and explore
space resources," the statement said.
Wang Yongzhi, chief general designer of China's Manned Space Program, said:
"China will never be a superpower, but as the world's biggest developing country
with 1.3 billion people, it should have a place in aerospace development and
make due contributions."
Manned space flight, most complicated and difficult aerospace project,
demonstrates a nation's scientific research and economic strength, he said.
"It's a major means to expand human living space and tap and use space
The China Aerospace Science Corp (CASC), designer and manufacturer of
Shenzhou spacecraft and "Long March" launch vehicles, said work has been already
instigated to make breakthroughs in technology in relation to the country's
unfolding space activities.
For example, the CASC has embarked on a new ``long march'' in upgrading
launch rockets to meet demands for future spacecraft launches, including
lift-off of a space station weighing more than 20 tons.
In a few years, the country's space program will be equipped with a new
family of rockets, capable of covering a launch range of between 0.5 tons and 25
tons for near-earth orbits and 4-13 tons for geo-stationary transfer orbits,
according to Jiang Yixian, a division director of the CASC.
Since October 1996, China's Long March rockets have been crowned with 46
consecutive triumphant launches, sending aloof application and research
satellites, in addition to spacecraft.
The Long March carrier rockets have conducted five lift-offs so far this
Manned space flights aside, preparation for unmanned missions to the moon is
also in the pipeline.
The country inaugurated a lunar exploration center in Beijing in August, to
oversee the launch of a moon orbiter in 2007, a lunar lander in 2012 and a third
satellite designed to reach the moon and bring back soil samples for research in
Ye Peijian, chief designer of the country's first lunar orbiter, said
research and development of the satellite, coded Chang'e-I, has proceeded
If all goes according to plan, the two-ton lunar orbiter will blast off in
2007 to conduct a one-year mission of mapping the moon's surface and studying
its mineral content, according to Luan Enjie, commander-in-chief of the
country's lunar exploration program.