posted on Mar, 14 2003 @ 12:04 AM
Pasting articles are generally looked down on by the mods, but in the sake of peace, sure...
China Works to Put Astronauts in Orbit
By JOSEPH KAHN
HANGHAI, March 11 ó Even as Americans question the purpose of manned space flight after the loss of the space shuttle Columbia, the world's newest
space power, China, is recreating the glory days of Apollo.
In October China plans to send its first astronauts into orbit on its Shenzhou spacecraft. When their re-entry capsule parachutes back to the grassy
steppes of Inner Mongolia, the Chinese hope to have exceeded American and Soviet records for the number of men, length of time in orbit and complexity
of operations on a maiden manned voyage in space. China plans to have two or three astronauts aboard for the first flight, while American and Russia
put one man in orbit on their first tries.
But China's aims go far beyond low-earth orbit. Beijing is pursuing multibillion-dollar programs to construct a space station and explore the moon.
Its scientists are energetically, if still dreamily, planning a colony on Mars.
China's Communist leaders are taking a page from the American playbook of the 1960's to spur technological advances, give China a place at the
pinnacle of military power and bolster the popularity of a governing party that still faces enormous social and economic problems.
"Space technology does not belong to the rich countries alone," said Zhang Houying, a scientific director of the Shenzhou program. "In science
there is only a No. 1, no No. 2. We'd like to lead in contributing to mankind." China's space program, controlled by the reflexively suspicious
military, has long been shielded in secrecy. The program's managers do not disclose their budget, launch details or even the names of the 14
astronauts in training at a guarded complex outside Beijing.
But the country's top officials make clear that they intend to challenge the United States in space, where it has faced little competition in manned
space flight since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Barring a quick breakthrough in NASA's review of what happened to the Columbia, the American shuttle fleet could still be grounded when China becomes
the third nation to send its own astronauts into orbit, providing an extra jolt of publicity that the Chinese believe will add to the prestige of the
Chinese officials also argue that the United States has wasted wealth and energy on the complex and inherently risky shuttle. That gives China, though
still at least a generation behind in space technology, a chance to catch up.
China intends to reach the moon by 2010. Some here belittle the American moon landing in 1969, proclaiming they will do more than "plant a red flag
and pick up rocks," as one space planner put it.
Officials say they aim to exploit the moon's resources. They covet its apparently abundant supply of helium-3, a rare isotope on earth that some
scientists believe may prove to be a clean fuel of choice when used in special nuclear fusion reactors that would have to be developed.
"We've got to seize this moment when other countries have no comprehensive plan to return to the moon," Luan Enjie, the head of China's National
Space Administration, told the official New China News Agency this month.
The cost of these efforts is staggering for a developing country, even one with a decade-long streak of fast economic growth. Foreign experts estimate
China's annual spending on space programs at $1.3 billion to $3 billion. While that is no more than one-fifth of NASA's budget, it is at least 10
times what Russia spends on its much-depleted space program.
China's celestial ambitions are fueled as much by defense as discovery. The push into space has helped improve the range and accuracy of ballistic
missiles and provided sophisticated tools for military reconnaissance.
Military strategists now boast that the January mission of Shenzhou IV, the precursor to the manned voyage, showed that China had mastered technology
to remotely alter cruise trajectories, a skill it considers critical to frustrating America's planned missile defense system.
Mutual mistrust, in fact, may be contributing to the beginning of a new space race.
When the United States imposed sanctions on China for weapons proliferation in 1999, it targeted the country's commercial satellite launchings, an
important source of money for the space program.
The sanctions apply to any satellite made with even minor American components, like microchips, and they have crippled China's once lucrative