China May Put Man in Orbit

OCTOBER 15TH, 2003

updated October 15th, 2005

China astronauts complete space flight


Chinese astronaut Fei Junlong emerging from the Shenzhou VI

China's second manned spacecraft has returned to Earth after orbiting the planet for five days as patriotic fervour gripped the nation and the media hailed the mission as a symbol of China's technological prowess.

Astronauts Fei Junlong, 40, and Nie Haisheng, 41, were flown to Beijing where they were given a hero's welcome after their Shenzhou VI space capsule touched down in the remote
steppes of the northern Chinese region of Inner Mongolia on Monday.

The two men were in good health after orbiting the Earth 76 times, covering 3.25 million km. State media hailed the mission as a breakthrough marking China's emergence as a major technological power. 

Soon after the craft touched down at 4.33am (2033 GMT),
barely 1km from its target, jubilant residents in Fei's and Nie's hometowns set off firecrackers and performed traditional dragon and lion dances, banging gongs and drums. 

Returning dignity

"The motherland is so great!" the official Xinhua news agency quoted Fei's father as saying. Fei's mother wept on learning of his safe return. 

The hometowns of Fei (L) and Nie
Haisheng celebrated their success

State television showed the astronauts emerging unaided, pausing atop the charred re-entry craft to wave to the recpveru team and the media.

Tang Xianming, director of the Manned Space Engineering Office, told a news conference that China would aim for a spacewalk by 2007 and consider putting a woman in space soon.

Patriotic rhetoric included a Xinhua commentary declaring that: 

"At this moment history is returning dignity and sanctity to the Chinese nation. In memories of the not too distant past, we were poor, in darkness and endured the bullying of imperialist powers.

"The sons of China, with their thousands of years of civilisation, were called the sick man of Asia." 

Watching the touchdown from the space command centre in
Beijing, parliament chief Wu Bangguo declared the mission had
"raised China's international status, our economic and technological strength, defence and national cohesion". 

Shoestring budget

Colonel Yang Liwei became the first Chinese man in space when he orbited the Earth 14 times on board Shenzhou V in October 2003, giving China membership in the exclusive club of countries that have put a man into space. 

The whole Shenzhou programme
is said to have cost $2.3 billion

The former Soviet Union and the United States first sent men into orbit in 1961. 

President Hu Jintao had spoken to the two astronauts by telephone at the weekend, just days after presiding over a top-level Communist Party meeting that spelt out the country's plans to accelerate its technological development. 

China has run its ambitious space programme on a relative
shoestring budget. Xinhua quoted a Chinese academic as saying the cost of developing the whole Shenzhou programme was about $2.3 billion, a fraction of the $16 billion budget of US space agency Nasa for 2005 alone.

China has also used its increasingly reliable Long March rockets to put over 50 satellites into orbit, including several
for foreign clients. 



China prepares for second manned space flight

The World Today - Tuesday, 4 October , 2005  12:40:00

Reporter: John Taylor

TANYA NOLAN: The Australian-born astronaut, Dr Andy Thomas has been telling Japanese reporters that a new space race is underway between China and the United States, and that the Chinese are set to land a man on the moon in the near future.

China's government-run media is reporting that the country will likely attempt to put another manned space craft into orbit around the 13th of this month.

In 2003 China joined the elite club of the United States and Russia as being the only nations capable of people into orbit.

Beijing Correspondent John Taylor reports China is determined to be a space-going power.

JOHN TAYLOR: At dawn at a restricted military base, Yang Liwei was preparing to go into space.

(Yang Liwei speaking)

"I'm ready for take off", he said, "please order me now."

They did, and he went.


On October the 15th, 2003, China began its great leap upward.

It became a space faring nation, joining only the United States and Russia in being able to put people into space.

China is getting ready to do it all again. The military run program is keeping the launch date a secret. But state media is tipping that China's second go at manned space flight will happen around the 13th of this month.

China's space success hasn't come cheap. The Government won't say how much it exactly spends every year. But some Western analysts believe it could be more than two billion dollars.

That's huge money for a developing country where tens of millions of people still live in miserable poverty.

Just after astronaut Yang Liwei entered space and the history books, President Hu Jintao spoke of the project's importance.

"Launching manned space flights is one of the most important strategic decisions of the third generation of party leaders", he said.

The Vice President of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation has said: "a battle for control of space is already underway."

It's fair to say that China's is pursuing its space program for many of the same reasons as other nations - technological and military spin-offs, exploration and politics.

China has been busy putting satellites into space, and has ambitions to land people on the moon, perhaps by 2010.

Dr Rudolph Meiner is a retired astronautical engineer with the European Space Agency, who now heads the Foundation "PUSH", peaceful uses of space for all humanity.

Dr Meiner applauds China's space efforts.

RUDOLPH MEINER: Well, I'm very happy that this has happened. I mean, the more nations that are capable to achieve this, the better, because we need urgently better infrastructure in space in order to manage our resources on Earth better.

JOHN TAYLOR: How so? Why?

RUDOLPH MEINER: Yeah, you are familiar with all the major problems we have on Earth, like climate change, scarcity of clean energy, population growth, communication problems, and so on, and space is the best place to improve on all this.

JOHN TAYLOR: In China's quest to explore space, is there a danger that we're going to have a, if you like, a space race, and space being looked upon for military purposes?

RUDOLPH MEINER: No. No, I think at this space station, any competition we have today is mainly of course of prestige, but more important is an economic competition. He who has the technology to bring people into space and keep them there safely, those technologies have a big impact on what we can do on Earth.

TANYA NOLAN: Dr Rudolph Meiner is a former astronautical engineer with the European Space Agency, speaking there to China Correspondent John Taylor.
Shenzhou-6 Mission In Final Preparation For Possible Launch On October 13

 October 06, 2005

The Shenzhou-6 mission is in final preparation with the integration of the spacecraft to its launcher this week at the launch site, and the expected arrival of the six-crew candidates from Beijing.

As most people in China still enjoy the weeklong holiday following National Day celebrations on Oct. 1, personnel at JSLC only got a little time off from their busy prelaunch work schedule.

Rollout of the CZ-2F launcher, with Shenzhou-6 on board, will take place shortly after the end of the weeklong holiday ending Oct. 7, Wen Wei Po said on Sept. 29.

Liftoff of the much-anticipated Shenzhou-6 mission (SZ-6, Shenzhou means "Divine Vessel" or "Magic Vessel") would take place no earlier than October 13, according to Wen Wei Po who first reported the possible launch date on Sept. 25. Other Chinese media reports have since widely quoted the launch date.

The Hong Kong-based pro-Beijing newspaper said that "relevant departments are preparing for a launch on October 13", the opening of the launch window, but could delay the liftoff "based on the situation at the [launch] site". This includes the workflow of the launch preparation, and weather conditions there and downrange.

Aerospace experts also told the newspaper that the launch of SZ-6 was originally planned for last year. But officials postponed it to this year to "better prepare the mission".

China launched its first yuhangyuan ("astronaut") Yang Liwei on the historic SZ-5 mission atop the Changzheng-2F (Long March-2F) launcher from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre (JSLC) in Inner Mongolia on October 15, 2003 at 9 a.m. Beijing Time (0100 UTC).

The mission ended with a successful landing in Inner Mongolia the following day at 6:23 a.m. Beijing Time (2223 UTC October 15), 21 hours 23 minutes after the liftoff.

The successful mission earned China the elite status of being the third nation to launch its own people into space.

Wen Wei Po also quoted eyewitnesses at JSLC as saying that SZ-6 looked similar to SZ-5, except that a "transition segment" was visible at the top of the SZ-6 stack, attached to one end of the Orbital Module.

The newspaper said that after separating from the Descent Module at the end of the nominal mission, the Orbital Module would remain in space for an extended mission to further carry out a series of science experiments. The Orbital Module "could also serve as a target space vehicle for future docking".

It is not clear if the SZ-6 Orbital Module would indeed be used as a docking target for SZ-7.

On Aug. 10 Yang Liwei said at a news conference in Fuzhou, capital of Fujian Province, that the SZ-9 mission would be the first attempt to perform an orbital docking with the SZ-8 Orbital Module. He said that SZ-7, which had been proposed for a 2007 launch, would see the first extravehicular activity.

Mission Information Sketchy

Although Chinese space officials have remained silent on many aspects of the mission, Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao have started to publish mission preparation reports since last month based on information from unidentified sources.

The pattern of information disclosure is similar to that prior to the launch of SZ-5.

Back then, the two Hong Kong newspapers had released information, some fairly reliable, before the official announcement in key newspapers and news agencies in China. For example, Wen Wei Po was the first media outlet to reveal the identity of the three yuhangyuans in the final stage of competition for the momentous place on SZ-5 - one day before Chinese space officials made the announcement .

Three and a half weeks ago on Sept. 9, Wen Wei Po broke the news that the two-person SZ-6 mission would be 119 hours long. The launch and landing would occur during daylight hours to enhance the safety of the two yuhangyuans.

Ta Kung Pao reported on Sept. 25 that SZ-6 would be expected to touch down at the primary landing site near the town of Siziwang Qi in the central region of Inner Mongolia. Siziwang Qi is about 80 km north of Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia. The alternate landing site for SZ-6 is JSLC to the west.

The report said that in recent days a large contingent joined the small recovery team that usually stationed there. The larger recovery unit rehearsed with a mock Descent Module that clearly looked different from the real Shenzhou capsule.

Leaders of the recovery unit also visited local residents to disseminate information on the return and recovery of SZ-6 and safety measures.

The launch campaign entered a heightened state since July. Wen Wei Po said on Sept. 8 that there was a sudden increase in personnel, mostly from Beijing and Shanghai, in July and August at JSLC. A report in Ta Kung Pao on Aug. 30 further corroborated that the Dongfeng ("East Wind") Aerospace City was closed to tour groups as of late August.

The Dongfeng Aerospace City is where many personnel, and their families, who are associated with the Chinese space program and military program live. The city, with JSLC as the best known nearby facility, is located along the shore of the lower reaches of the Hei River ("Black River") called Ruoshui River ("Little Water River"), in the area near Ejin Qi in Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region.

After the successful mission of SZ-5, China partially opened the aerospace city to tourism. Last year 15,700 tourists visited the city and brought in nearly RMB 8.7 million (USD 1.08 million) in revenue.

The launcher that would send SZ-6 into space arrived at JSLC by mid-September. In a report on Sept. 17, witnesses told Wen Wei Po that the CZ-2F launcher arrived from Beijing by rail in segments under heavy security. The segments are stacked vertically in the huge Vertical Assembly and Testing Building (VATB), the equivalent of the famed Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at Kennedy Space Center.

A report in Ta Kung Pao on Monday (Oct. 3) wrote that security at both the launch center and the landing site became exceptionally tight. Entry to JSLC has been restricted to personnel related to the launch, with the roads leading to the launch centre sealed off to everyone else.

Before Oct. 1 personnel who were not involved in the SZ-6 mission were asked to leave the Dongfeng Aerospace City. Motels and hotels have all been reserved for other SZ-6 mission personnel who arrive from out of town.

Reporters who have received permission to visit JSLC would not be able to enter the launch center without a military escort. To reach JSLC the Ta Kung Pao reporter took an almost three-hour ride from the city of Jiuquan in Gansu Province in a white license plate military vehicle, which apparently is the only kind of vehicle that could enter the launch center.

At 35 km outside the Aerospace City is the first checkpoint. Except military vehicles with the special permit, all other vehicles and passengers would go through security checks here. At the entrance to the city is the second checkpoint. After another round of security checking, the reporter and the military vehicle could finally enter the city.

The reporter saw that the CZ-2F launch pad was empty and the high bay doors of VATB were shut tight.

Businesses near the launch center had also been inspected for dangerous and explosive material. JSLC security forces, local government personnel, armed police, and People's Liberation Army (PLA) share the responsibility of the security maintenance and inspection.

The level of security is even more intense at the landing sites, with PLA guarding every single access point to the landing centers.

Not only is the movement of people under restriction, information transmission from JSLC is also severely curtailed. Reporters have to submit their written reports for official inspection and clearance before filing them.

However, the Ta Kung Pao reporter found out that even when the report cleared the official examination, there was nowhere in JSLC that reporters could transmit their stories. At the Dongfeng Technology Information Inquiry Center, 20 of the 30 computers were in operation. But these computers were available only to technicians at the aerospace city to go on the Internet.

Science Payload Mostly Under Wrap

During the SZ-6 mission the two yuhangyuans would doff the 10-kg spacesuits that they would wear during ascent. They would also open the access hatch to enter the Orbital Module to perform science experiments.

On SZ-5 Yang Liwei did not take off his spacesuit or enter the Orbital Module, although he did unstrap from the seat to experience weightlessness inside the Descent Module.

Very little information, however, has been released on the experiments. So far the only science payloads that are confirmed to ride on SZ-6 are plant seeds and 40 grams of sperm specimens from the nationally protected Rongchang pig species from the Chongqing area. The purpose of sending seeds and sperm samples into space is to study possible genetic changes as a result of exposure to cosmic radiation.

But the public relations office of Rongchang County told Ta Kung Pao in a report on Sept. 30 that the pig sperm samples were cancelled from the SZ-6 payload manifest, for reasons that remained unclear.

Qi Faren, the Chief Designer of Shenzhou, revealed in an interview with Wen Wei Po on March 5 this year that other areas of scientific studies on board SZ-6 would include medical experiments, human cell growth, human kinematics, and nutrition. There will also be equipment installed for remote sensing observations.

Mission Crew Undecided

Similar to the SZ-5 mission, space officials will decide the two-person crew in the final hours before launch. Beijing Sci-Tech Report said on Sept. 28 that the final decision would be made at T minus 5 hours on launch day. However, the Sept. 30 Wen Wei Po report contradicted the decision timeline. The newspaper said that the final decision would come at 18 hours before launch.

All 14 yuhangyuans, including Yang Liwei, began intensive training in March 2004. Based on personality and work coordination, space officials paired the 14 yuhangyuans in seven groups of two for the entire course of training.

More than a year later three pairs of yuhangyuan advanced to more specific training related to the SZ-6 mission. Huang Chunping, the first Commander-in-Chief of the launch system of the Chinese Manned Space Program, said on July 3 that the final six candidates had been selected.

When asked whether Yang was among the final six candidates, Huang did not disclose any name. But he said that he would like to see other yuhangyuans to fly on SZ-6.

Huang gave his reason: "At the same time the nation trains 14 outstanding yuhangyuans, this huge resource should not be wasted. Besides, the previous spaceflight experience of Yang Liwei is a precious experience for all of China. Why not engraving the names of other yuhangyuans in the Chinese spaceflight history?"

As late as Aug. 11 Yang confirmed that he would definitely participate in the SZ-6 mission. But observers speculated that Yang would only participate as a trainer, according to a report in Ta Kung Pao on Aug. 2.

The speculation was based on the observation that Yang was scheduled to make public appearance in many activities even as the launch of SZ-6 was approaching.

Then during his visit to various functions in Nanjing on Sept. 17, Yang said in a speech that he would not fly on SZ-6.

"First of all I had to undergo selection and training of yuhangyuans, the workload and task in this area was heavier. Secondly I had carried out a space mission, I would like to give other yuhangyuans more development opportunities," said Yang.

In fact the contribution of Yang to SZ-6 was a trainer and leader of the yuhangyuan corps, according to an unnamed source that Wen Wei Po quoted on Sept. 20.

For his contribution to the Chinese manned space program, the Central Military Commission of the Armed Forces and the General Armament Department of the PLA recently promoted Senior Colonel Yang Liwei to the position of deputy head of the Aerospace Medical Engineering Research Institute in Beijing.

The research institute is located within the Beijing Aerospace City, where part of the spaceflight training takes place. The institute is a core unit of the manned space program with work centered on medical monitoring and protection of yuhangyuans, and setting the medical requirements for the engineering design of the Shenzhou spacecraft.

All six SZ-6 crew candidates are in quarantine and final training at the Beijing Aerospace City. According to Wen Wei Po, in the final days of September the three yuhangyuan teams were at JSLC for a final full dress rehearsal. Ta Kung Pao said on Sept. 30 that all the candidates would leave for JSLC for final preflight preparation after National Day.

Although space officials have not made the final decision on which pair of yuhangyuans would ride on SZ-6, Ta Kung Pao published on Sept. 8 that Nie Haisheng and Zhai Zhigang are the leading candidates. Unidentified sources told the newspaper that this pair of yuhangyuan, who were also in the final round of competition for the single seat on SZ-5 two years ago, had shown the greatest conditions and confidence among the three pairs of finalists.

Chinese media widely circulated the Ta Kung Pao report of the Nie-Zhai combination. With no official information, Wen Wei Po said that even the younger brother of Zhai claimed that his sibling partnered with Nie.

But some aerospace analysts in China were not convinced that the two yuhangyuans were indeed in the same team, according to news from Wen Wei Po on Sept. 30.

On the following day (Oct. 1) Wen Wei Po published the identity of the third yuhangyuan who was said to be a leading candidate too among the final group of six. The newspaper said that local residents widely circulated a rumour in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, that its acclaimed pilot Fei Junlong was among the final candidates.

A day later (Oct. 2) Wen Wei Po reported that residents in Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province, also claimed that its famous "son" Nie Haisheng was a leading candidate. Wen Wei Po speculated that the Nie-Fei team might go into space instead.

Rumours, confusion, mysteries abound, if all goes well the world will know more about the SZ-6 mission next week.

Copyright 2005 by Space Daily,

The stated plans for China’s manned spaceflight program go no farther than the development of small space stations serviced by Shenzhou spacecraft, not—as of yet—lunar expeditions. (credit: CNSA)

Red Moon. Dark Moon.

Very soon—perhaps within the next few days—China will launch its second manned space mission, Shenzhou 6. This mission will carry two “taikonauts” instead of one, and will accomplish more tasks than the short Shenzhou 5 flight. However, it follows China’s first manned launch by a full two years, a substantial slowdown in the pace of China’s already glacial human spaceflight development. The Chinese are certainly not acting like a country that desires to compete with other space powers.

Nevertheless, Congressman Ken Calvert, chairman of the House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee, recently raised the prospect of a Moon race between the United States and China. Noting that NASA’s plans are to land a human on the Moon by 2018, Calvert told a reporter for Aerospace Daily & Defense Report: “I’ve been talking to a number of people that are much more knowledgeable about that than I am, [about] some things that maybe are still classified, but they believe that the Chinese are probably on the mark to get there sooner.”

The more immediate question concerns whether it is true that the Chinese intend to try to send humans to the Moon in the near future. How can we know that it is true?

Speaking to another reporter for Aviation Week (which publishes Aerospace Daily), Calvert phrased it a little differently, stating that his information was not classified. “Even if we follow the president’s vision and we’re back to the Moon by 2020, I also serve on the Armed Service Committee, so I have the ability to look at a lot of things,” he said. “And looking at things that are not classified, more than likely the Chinese will be on the Moon before that. I would rather be on the Moon to greet the Chinese rather than going to the Moon and have the Chinese greet us.” This statement appeared in the magazine that showed up in mailboxes about five days after the Aerospace Daily article.

A “race” with China could actually be a good thing—it is better for China to spend its money on a technology project with no military implication than ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan or Los Angeles. But set aside the question of the desirability of a Moon race with China for a moment. The more immediate question concerns whether it is true that the Chinese intend to try to send humans to the Moon in the near future. How can we know that it is true? To help answer this question we can look to history, specifically the last time that something like this happened.

The last Moon race

Soon after Yuri Gagarin’s flight in April 1961, President Kennedy asked his advisors to consider how the United States could respond. They evaluated a number of options, including a manned lunar mission, and consulted the intelligence community. The intelligence community indicated that there was as yet no evidence that the Soviet Union had a similar program. Kennedy approved the lunar goal in part because Soviet advantages in rocketry would largely be negated because neither side at the time had a rocket large enough to undertake a lunar mission.

In fall 1962, NASA Deputy Administrator Hugh Dryden met with officials from the CIA to discuss the possibility that the Soviet Union might have a lunar program. Somewhat surprisingly, in this case it was Dryden who told the CIA what to look for, rather than the CIA telling him what they had found. The key, Dryden said, would be a very large rocket. Look for that, and you will have strong hints that they have started a lunar program.

Over the next year the CIA produced several reports indicating what Soviet developments would indicate a lunar landing program. These included a large launch vehicle, advanced upper stages, improved guidance systems, improved life support systems (of longer duration than tested to date), radiation shielding, and re-entry techniques. Another precursor would be “a considerable amount of unmanned lunar exploration,” the CIA said.

It took the CIA several years to determine if the Soviet Union had a lunar landing program. Although the Soviets started their program in 1963, declassified National Intelligence Estimate documents from 1965 and 1967 still contained qualifiers. American reconnaissance satellites had detected a massive construction project at the Soviet Tyura-Tam launch range beginning in 1963. Intelligence analysts soon identified it as the launch site for a powerful new rocket. But even four years later they were not certain if that rocket was for launching a Moon mission or a large manned space station. A major problem for interpreters was the slow pace of construction that they observed at the facility. Analysts kept scratching their heads: if the Soviets really were racing Apollo, they were not completing their launch facility fast enough to win. This made little sense. Why try at all if you are not trying to win? What they did not know was that the Soviet program was fractured and poorly managed, and that Soviet officials were lying to their superiors about their position in the race. Many of them hoped that the Americans would stumble.

Somewhat surprisingly, in this case it was NASA’s Hugh Dryden who told the CIA what to look for, rather than the CIA telling him what they had found. The key, Dryden said, would be a very large rocket. Look for that, and you will have strong hints that the Soviets have started a lunar program.

Not all of the relevant records from this era have been declassified. It is not possible to determine at what point CIA analysts concluded that the Soviet Union did have an actual lunar landing program, as opposed to simply a very large rocket that could also be used to launch a space station. They did achieve many of the technological goals prerequisite to a lunar landing, but there was no direct evidence of a lunar program for a long time. However, at some point in either 1967 or 1968 the CIA either obtained covert information on the Soviet program, or observed Soviet orbital flights that looked exactly like lunar operations, and changed their adjectives from “possibly” to “probably,” and then to “definitely.” By then it was apparent that the Soviets would lose the race to the Moon.

All of this analysis took place inside the US intelligence community. This information was certainly distributed outside of that community. NASA administrator James Webb certainly knew about it. Select members of Congress were also aware of it. The public, however, had no proof of any of it, other than occasional assertions by Webb and members of Congress that the Moon race was real. Pictures of the massive rocket complex inside the Soviet Union remained classified for decades, and many outsiders doubted that the Soviet Union ever had a manned lunar program.

China in space

Watching China’s space program for signs of a lunar program will in many ways be similar to what happened in the 1960s because the physics of getting to the Moon have not changed. In many other ways, though, it will be much easier, both for government officials and the American public, to monitor the signs and determine if the Chinese do indeed have a manned lunar landing program.

For starters, compared to the Soviets, the Chinese are far more open about their space program in general, and their human space program in particular. In fact, Chinese television showed a lengthy documentary on first taikonaut Yang Liwei’s flight, complete with behind the scenes footage of his training. (The program is now available on DVD and is fascinating viewing even if you do not understand Chinese.) The Chinese press also regularly publishes interviews with space officials who talk about upcoming plans.

Few Americans regularly surf Chinese websites, but there is a surprising amount of information on Chinese space plans on the web, particularly their human space program. What is lacking are both fluent Chinese speakers who can translate what they find into English, and people who are actually interested in what the Chinese are doing in their space program to seek out information. One person who regularly searches for information on the Chinese space program and who writes about it in English is Chen Lan, operator of the Go Taikonauts! web site. Lan says that there is no indication from any source in China that the country has a manned lunar program. What China does have is a robotic lunar program that many westerners frequently mistake for a human lunar program.

According to Lan, China has slowed down its program from the already lethargic development pace. After four unmanned test flights capped by the launch of Shenzhou 5, all taking place a year apart, Shenzhou 6 will fly two years after Shenzhou 5.

As Lan explains, the Chinese human spaceflight program has for several years now had three primary goals. The first was to successfully orbit a human. The second goal is to develop a small, man-tended space station. And the third goal is to develop a small, permanent space station. Reports that China intends to land a human on the Moon, or even send humans on a circumlunar mission, are easily dismissed as poor translations of Chinese language news reports.

According to Lan, China has slowed down its program from the already lethargic development pace. After four unmanned test flights capped by the launch of Shenzhou 5, all taking place a year apart, Shenzhou 6 will fly two years after Shenzhou 5, and Shenzhou 7, which is supposed to feature the first Chinese spacewalk, is now scheduled for 2007. Shenzhou 8 and 9 are scheduled to feature the first rendezvous between two manned craft. But that is not scheduled for 2008. China’s goal is to field the man-tended space station by 2010 and a permanent space station sometime after that.

Compared to the United States or the Soviet Union at the dawn of the space age, China is taking longer but fewer strides. The United States flew men in space nine times before making a spacewalk compared to China’s plan to do it by their third flight. However, such an approach limits their ability to gain experience that is certainly needed for more complex goals. It also raises the possibility that knowledge is being lost in the years between each flight.

Spying on Red China

Perhaps the Chinese have kept a manned lunar landing goal a secret. If so, what other signs of a lunar landing program should we watch for?

Just as during the 1960s lunar race, the Chinese will have to develop certain technologies and capabilities before they can send humans to the Moon. First and foremost would be a new large rocket. The largest Long March rocket is capable of launching about nine metric tons into low Earth orbit. The Chinese have announced plans to develop a “new generation launch vehicle” with a 25 metric ton capability—slightly larger than the American Delta 4 Heavy. It would be launched from a new launch range on Hainan Island.

This larger rocket would allow the Chinese to develop a circumlunar capability. They could launch two vehicles, link them up in orbit, and send them around the Moon. But such a vehicle is not really large enough for a lunar landing mission. Such an approach would require multiple launches and robotic rendezvous. The Chinese could certainly take this much different approach, but it would add a great deal of complexity to the effort. Integrating spacecraft is not an easy task, and it is easier to do it on the ground than in orbit. A lunar landing mission would most likely require a rocket with the capability of launching at least 50-80 metric tons and that would still require two launches and an Earth orbit rendezvous. That rocket would be significantly larger than anything that the Chinese have yet built. It would also require a substantial ground facility as well as a large assembly building and two launch pads. Although the Chinese have reportedly studied a launch vehicle capable of launching up to 70 metric tons, they have provided no indication that they intend to build it. If they intend to put humans on the Moon in the next thirteen years, then they will have to start major construction in the next few years.

Here, too, we have a considerable advantage compared to the 1960s. Today there are commercial imagery satellites capable of taking photos at higher resolution than was available to the US intelligence community for most of the 1960s. Even lower resolution imagery would show the telltale signature of construction of massive new launch facilities at Hainan.

Even if no individuals or news organizations pay for such images to be taken, the fact that unclassified photographs can be taken means that the United States government could quickly make such information publicly available. The Chinese may not talk about their plans, but their actions will be easy to spot.

Today there are commercial imagery satellites capable of taking photos at higher resolution than was available to the US intelligence community for most of the 1960s. Even lower resolution imagery would show the telltale signature of construction of massive new launch facilities.

In addition to technical capability, the Chinese also need operational capability. They need to develop manned orbital spaceflight and related techniques such as orbital rendezvous of two piloted spacecraft. So far the Chinese have demonstrated an extreme conservatism with their human spaceflight program. Presumably they would want to gain confidence in their equipment and their techniques before embarking on a risky mission. So the rendezvous mission scheduled for 2008 is insufficient to give the Chinese confidence in that technical requirement. In addition, they will also have to operate a manned spacecraft for at least a week.

Based upon Apollo and Soviet experience, there are two primary technological developments for a lunar mission that require the most time and effort. One is the large launch vehicle, which is impossible to hide from spying satellites. The other is the lunar lander. As Apollo demonstrated, the lunar lander proved to be a difficult spacecraft to build, and its construction ultimately determined the pace of the program. The Soviet lunar lander was developed entirely in secret and its details were unknown in the West for over two decades. However, the CIA was aware of its existence, and if the Soviets had progressed to testing it in lunar orbit, more would have become known about it. It is entirely possible for China to begin early development of a lunar lander in secret, but they will not be able to conceal its flight-testing program.

At a time when the Chinese have given every indication of slowing down their human spaceflight program, with flights occurring only once every two years, they will have to substantially change their behavior if they intend to beat the United States (back) to the Moon. And if China chooses to launch humans to the Moon, they cannot do it in secret. When they start, we will be able to watch.


China Plans Second, Longer Space Mission

Mission Could Last Five Days

POSTED: 10:02 am EDT October 11, 2005
China plans to launch two astronauts into orbit Wednesday for a mission lasting several days that is meant to seal its status as an emerging space power.

The mission, which reportedly could last up to five days, is more ambitious and riskier than China's first manned space flight two years ago, which lasted less than 22 hours.

The manned space program is a high-profile prestige project for the ruling Communist Party. The 2003 flight made China only the third nation, after Russia and the United States, to send a human into orbit on its own.

A rocket carrying the Shenzhou VI capsule will blast off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert of China's orthwest, the official Xinhua News Agency said Tuesday. It didn't give a time but said there would be a live television broadcast from the launch site.

Xinhua said a crew had been picked from a field of six finalists but didn't give their names.

The flight this week will be more complicated than the 2003 mission, according to state media.

Reports say the two astronauts will take off their 22-pound space suits to travel back and forth between the two halves of their vessel -- a re-entry capsule and an orbiter that is to stay aloft after they land.

They will also conduct experiments, Xinhua said, but details weren't immediately released.

Meanwhile, China on Tuesday said it opposes deploying weapons in outer space and asserted that its ambitions in the field are strictly peaceful.

"The Chinese government has consistently advocated the peaceful use of outer space and opposed the weaponization of outer space," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan at a regular news briefing. "We do not wish to see any form of weapons in outer space, so we reaffirm that our space flight program is an important element of mankind's peaceful utilization of outer space."

In a break with the space agency's typical secrecy, Xinhua said a live broadcast of the entire flight would be provided to foreign media. Earlier reports said the liftoff and space flight would be shown on Chinese television with a brief delay, possibly to allow authorities to cut the signal if anything goes wrong.

None of the 2003 space flight was shown live by Chinese television.

Foreign reporters are barred from the remote launch base in the Gobi Desert in China's northwest. A handful of Chinese journalists are to be on hand for the liftoff, but have been warned that they might be ordered to hand over any photos or video -- a possible image-control measure if anything goes wrong.

The Shenzhou -- or Divine Vessel -- capsule is based on Russia's three-seat Soyuz, though with extensive modifications. Space suits, life-support systems and other equipment are based on technology purchased from Russia.

China has had a rocketry program since the 1950s and fired its first satellite into orbit in 1970. It regularly launches satellites for foreign clients aboard its giant Long March boosters.


China to launch Shenzhou VI October 12-15

China will launch its second manned space mission between October 12 and 15, an aerospace official said Tuesday.

The final launch time will depend on the weather conditions.


Shenzhou VI, a spaceship to carry two astronauts into orbit, sits atop of the LM-2F carrier rocket at the launching pad in Jiuquan satellite launch center in northwest China October 7, 2005. It is widely reported that China's second manned spaceship will be launched on October 13. [Nanfang Daily]
The Shenzhou VI aircraft will carry two astronauts into the sky from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, the Xinhua News Agency quoted the official with the headquarters for China's manned space mission as saying.

The craft is expected to land at a site in central Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the official said, adding that the preparations for the launch are going smoothly.

AFP Monday quoted an anonymous official from the technical department of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center as saying that "It (launch time) is October 12 at 9 am." 

A travel agent taking domestic tourists to witness the launch said he had been advised to be at the site early Wednesday morning.

The six astronauts shortlisted for the two-member mission have arrived at the launch pad in Inner Mongolia and Zhai Zhigang and Nie Haisheng are favorites to pilot the mission, reports said.

Wang Yongzhi, chief designer of China's manned spaceflight program, said the two astronauts on Shenzhou-6 will for the first time enter into the orbital module from the re-entry capsule and live and work several days under microgravity conditions, Xinhua said.

They will also for the first time carry out "scientific experiments with human participation in its real sense" in space, said Wang without deliberation.

Liu Yu, commander in chief of the rocket system, said the rocket for Shenzhou-6 has much improvement in reliability and safety compared with the one for Shenzhou-5.

"We have confidence in the quality of this rocket. We have the conditions and capability to fulfill this mission," said Liu.

No plant seeds on Shenzhou VI

Shenzhou VI will not carry any plant seeds, Liu Luxiang, director of the Centre for Space Breeding under the Beijing-based Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

The announcement came after media reports speculated that the spacecraft would carry seeds, animal semen or other experimental items for space mutation breeding.


"Since Shenzhou V, which took the first Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei 14 times around the earth for a 21-hour period in 2003, space experiments in China have been focusing on human activities in outer space," said Liu.

The second manned space mission will carry two astronauts into orbit for five days, during which their physical reactions will be closely monitored.

"If it were an unmanned spaceship or recoverable satellite, we might have put experimental things on it," said Liu, whose department selects seeds for outer space experimentation and allocates them to breeding nurseries after they are brought back.

"An unmanned spaceship and a recoverable satellite could have a relatively looser security demand and could expose seeds to more cosmic radiation to cause a useful mutation," he said.

"But as a manned capsule, the Shenzhou VI has a different structure to block radiation as much as possible, and strict measures are being taken to ensure its security."

Liu had obtained evidence from other sources but refused to identify them, saying only: "China's style is to focus on one thing at a time."

He also denied that the absence of seeds is due to limited space on the capsule.

Since 1987, China has been keen on sending plant seeds about 200 to 400 kilometres above the earth to study genetic mutations and changes.

A variety of seeds, including corn, lotus and watermelon, have travelled in space for up to two weeks in recoverable satellites or high-altitude balloons.

The high radiation in space-mutated, or genetically-modified, seeds' DNA, may explain why peonies grown from "space seeds" are larger and more colourful than normal. The mutations may also explain jumbo bell peppers and fast-growing rice.

In the past five years, the Centre for Space Breeding developed 12 rice and wheat variants that greatly increased grain output, according to a statement released last month by the centre.

Source:China Daily


Shenzhou VII launch set for 2007
EVEN before Shenzhou VI returns to Earth, local researchers involved in China's space program are already looking forward to the launch of Shenzhou VII — the country's third manned spacecraft — in 2007.

That mission is expected to see the first space walk by Chinese astronauts. Also, it will include a docking experiment in preparation for the country's plans to build its own space station.

Before the docking experiment, China is planning to launch an unmanned orbiter — a small version of future space station — which Shenzhou VIII will dock with, according to Han Hongyin of the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology.

Han helped design the propulsion system used on the Shenzhou spacecrafts. He didn't say when Shenzhou VIII is scheduled to take off.

"We will test space technology individually before the launch of the country's first space station," Han said.

The propulsion designer said that at least two astronauts will be aboard Shenzhou VII when it blasts into orbit in 2007.

One of them will take a walk in space, and the astronaut will be attached to the capsule by a tether.

He said the launch of an unmanned orbiter for docking will take place some time after the Shenzhou VII mission is completed.

He said the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology — the country's leading space research center — is mainly responsible for the craft's propulsion module, propulsion system, as well as communication and power systems.

Additionally, Shanghai is taking part in a national project to develop more powerful launch vehicles capable of serving the country's future lunar exploration and space station. Their maximum load capacity will reach 25 tons — tripling the weight of Shenzhou V.

"Most part of the Shenzhou series spacecrafts will be consistent with each other except for some minor updates," said the designer.


Thursday, October 13, 2005.

Chinese Astronauts Blast Off

By Stephanie Hoo
The Associated Press

JIUQUAN, China -- A rocket carrying two Chinese astronauts blasted off Wednesday from a base in China's desert northwest, returning the country's manned space program to orbit two years after its history-making first flight.

The mission, reportedly due to last up to five days, is an efforts by the communist government to declare its status as a rising world power with technological triumphs to match its rapid economic growth. It is only the third country to launch a human into orbit on its own, after Russia and the United States.


China to train women astronauts

October 15, 2005

CHINA is developing selection criteria for women astronauts, state media said today, following the launch of its second manned mission.

An air force university was already accepting pilot trainees, the official Xinhua news agency said.

"Experts say the country's first group of female fighter pilots may emerge from them, including the first female Chinese astronaut," it said, offering new meaning to Chairman Mao Zedong's remark that women hold up half the sky.

Shenzhou 6 is slated to land on Monday about 150 km north of Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia.

Its two astronauts, Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng, lifted off on Thursday for a five day flight but have supplies for seven days in case the weather is uncooperative, Xinhua said.

Studies of the effect of space flight on women had begun, Xinhua news agency cited Chen Shanguang, director of the China Astronaut Research and Training Centre as saying.

Chinese researchers would have to make extensive studies, such as developing new space suits, Xinhua said.

The United States routinely includes women in its space crews.

Shuttles Challenger and Columbia each had two female astronauts aboard during their final, fatal missions.

China witnesses great leaps in maritime space tracking 2005-10-16 20:20:37

    BEIJING, Oct. 16 (Xinhuanet) -- China's maritime space tracking technologies have achieved substantial progress over the past 27 years and reached the advanced levels in the world, an official in charge of the operation said Sunday.

    The maritime space surveying and controlling opera tion, which has been tracking China's second manned spacecraft Shenzhou-6 since the lift-off on Wednesday, has made a number of breakthroughs since it was initiated in 1978, according to Jian Shilong, director in charge of the program.

    China is able to carry out maritime measuring and controlling on objects at sea, under the surface of water, on international satellites, and manned spacecrafts, said Jian.

    However, during the initial stage, China was only able to measure and control objects at land, on the surface of water, domestic satellites and unmanned spacecrafts, he recalled.

    The operation, equipped with four "Yuanwang" tracking ships, has accomplished some 50 key scientific researches and tasks with no hitches or failures for the past 27 years.

    The "Yuanwang" ships have involved in China's past five Shenzhou space flight missions during 1999-2003, conducting measuring and controlling operations including the orbit transfer,attitude adjustment, video and audio transmission for China's first manned spacecraft Shenzhou-5 in 2003.

    The tracking ships have accomplished designed tasks, including orbit maintenance for the record-making Shenzhou-6, despite rough sea weather on Friday and Saturday.

    The four ships boast advanced technologies in terms of the functions and precision of measuring and controlling, automatization and reliability, said Jian.

    The ships and some 20 surveying stations on land jointly build up China's space telemetry network. Enditem

By Edward A. Gargan

September 30, 2003

Beijing - Legend has it that toward the end of the 15th century, a Chinese official named Wan Hu attached 30 rockets to a kite-like monoplane, lashed himself firmly into a seated position and ordered the rocket fuses lit. There was a colossal, blinding detonation, and both Wan and his craft took off.

Legend does not tell us where the mythic Wan landed, but his supposed exploit has bolstered popular claims to China as the land of the first attempt at manned space flight.

Now, five centuries later, China is on the verge of launching an astronaut or two, according to hints dropped in the Chinese press and by Chinese diplomats abroad. This would make it only the third nation to put a man into space, after Russia and the United States.

Indeed, with the celebration of China's national day, Oct. 1, tomorrow, some Chinese journalists are feverishly speculating that the first mission may be launched on the day commemorating 54 years of communist rule. Others, also claiming inside knowledge, confidently predict a launch date of Oct. 17.

"This is about 90 percent political and 10 percent technical," said David Baker, the editor of Jane's Space Directory, the British space and weapons analytical group. "It's an important signal about what China would like the world to think about its technical virility." Still, unlike the American manned space program that was minutely covered by the media from its outset, the Chinese program remains largely secret, with only occasional tidbits doled out to the official press.

If reports in Hong Kong newspapers are true, the leading candidate to go into space is a pilot named Chen Long, who was trained by Chinese air force pilots at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut center in Russia.

Dubbed the "Shenzhou," or "Divine Boat" or "Divine Vessel" by the government, the tea-cup-shaped craft resembles the Russian Soyuz capsules, although modified somewhat, particularly in the area of emergency escapes, according to Jane's. Some space analysts even suggest the Shenzhou is largely of Chinese design and technologically superior to the Soyuz.

For a country so poor it remains a major recipient of help from multilateral donors, including the World Bank, China's space program is expensive. Media reports suggest it has cost taxpayers 19 billion yuan, or $2.3 billion to date - about half what NASA spends annually on its shuttle program - a considerable sum in a country where tens of millions of rural villagers subsist on less than $100 a year.

A successful launch, however, would admit China to an exclusive scientific circle. It has established its presence as a major participant in space exploration and technology, however, with 50 orbiting satellites and successful space launches to date.

Some analysts say it is not pure science and exploration that is driving China. The Pentagon in July delivered a report to Congress bluntly assaying the manned space program: "While one of the strongest immediate motivations for this program appears to be political prestige, China's ... efforts almost certainly will contribute to improved military space systems in the 2010-2020 timeframe."

The report quoted a Chinese naval captain, Shen Zhongchang, as writing: "The mastery of outer space will be a requisite for military victory, with outer space becoming the new commanding heights for combat."

What little can be gleaned from Chinese publications suggests that a Chinese astronaut is to orbit Earth for less than 24 hours after being launched from the Jiuquan Space Launch Center in northwestern Gansu Province.

The mission is to be controlled by the newly built Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center, 30 miles northwest of the capital.

So far, the Chinese have launched four unmanned Shenzhou capsules into space, the most recent parachuting to land in the Gobi Desert of Inner Mongolia on Jan. 5 after 108 revolutions of Earth, a seven-day journey.

That mission, according to Chinese media reports, carried a full-sized dummy in a space suit, along with 52 science projects, and was declared a complete success by then-President Jiang Zemin.
Copyright © 2003,">Newsday, Inc.


Outer space becomes multipolar

By Jamie Miyazaki

The scheduled October 30 signing by China and the European Union to open the way for China to take a substantial financial role in Europe's nearly US$4 billion Galileo navigation-satellite project could be interpreted as a direct shot across the bow of the United States as the world's sole, undisputed military and economic superpower in outer space. Nor is it going to be the last.

The French, the Chinese and the Russians are all pushing for the emergence of a multipolar world to counter the United States' supremacy as a so-called hyperpower. The EU, spurred primarily by French efforts, for decades has actively challenged US dominance in the strategically important aerospace industry through Airbus Industrie and the Ariane space-rocket program. The EU's next serious challenge to US supremacy looks set to be the lucrative navigation-satellite industry currently monopolized by the United States-based Global Positioning System (GPS). But in order to attain this, the EU has had to rely on help from Beijing.

The joint EU-China agreement, scheduled to be signed at the summit between China and the European Union, provides for cooperation on satellite navigation over a wide range of scientific and technological sectors, industrial manufacturing, service and market development and other issues. What it really does, however, is go into deep Chinese pockets for substantial financial help through a stakeholding in the project.

If all goes as scheduled, Galileo would loft a constellation of 30 stationary satellites 23,000 kilometers into the sky as a counterweight to GPS, the current state of play in satellite location technology. Planned to be operational by 2008 at a cost of 3.3 billion euros ($3.85 billion), Galileo is designed to counter the effective US monopoly on navigation satellite technology with improved accuracy that, as a civilian system, won't be subject to government blocking.

Originally developed as a military application to pinpoint and target objects from space, GPS has become one of the world's true whiz-bang technologies. The satellite system allows both military and commercial surveying to pinpoint the location of vehicles, aircraft, ships or even herds of cattle anywhere on Earth.

Since its inception the US system has also been expanded to cover civilian applications, something US officials have repeatedly pointed out in their questioning why Galileo has to be established at all.

However, its civilian applications are deliberately low-precision to maintain the US military advantage in pinpointing objects. To counter one of the arguments of the EU's rival Galileo system, the US government recently fine-tuned the accuracy of its civilian-use system, although in the past the United States has selectively blocked access when it has felt national security was in danger of being compromised, as it did during the campaign in Afghanistan.

The United States has stressed space systems as key "strategic enablers" for conducting command, control and intelligence functions in military operations, all part of the Pentagon's much-touted Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA). The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) is in the process of drafting a comprehensive strategy to ensure US dominance of space. As General Lance Lord of the US Air Force Space Command put it in April, "The pursuit of asymmetric advantage is not new. In the 20th century, air power emerged as just such an advantage. Today, at the outset of the 21st century, we are realizing the same sort of advantage through space power."

This broadened sense of the importance of space capabilities as instruments of military, political and economic interests has not gone unnoticed, either by Beijing or by Brussels. French President Jacques Chirac has previously stated that Europe's failure to develop an independent space capability would make Europe a "vassal" of the United States. Unsurprisingly, France has been one of the most vocal backers of Galileo, viewing it as an important step in the evolution of a separate European defense identity.

China's leadership feels likewise and has made improving space-based surveillance capabilities, the exploitation of space and acquisition of related technologies high priorities. The Pentagon's July report on Chinese military power phrased it more directly: "Publicly, China opposes the militarization of space and seeks to prevent the development of US anti-satellites systems and space-based missile defenses. Privately, however, China's leaders view [moves to militarize space] ... as inevitabilities."

Initially a lot of China's space programs were motivated by political prestige, but military dominance of most of its current projects is expected to yield significant amounts of dual-use technology. China already has a basic indigenous navigation satellite system called Beidou in place, but its surveillance capabilities are in effect limited to China and are of questionable quality.

Next month also sees the launch of China's first manned space mission - Shenzhou V ("divine vessel") - just the first step in a much larger program. By 2010 it is predicted that China's space program will be a significant contributor to its military prowess.

In Beijing's quest to secure a favorable strategic configuration of power it too has pinpointed space as the "new commanding heights for combat". Central to its strategy of a weaker military power (read China) defeating a superior one (read the US) is an attack on an enemy's space-based communication and surveillance systems. With this in mind Beijing is known to be developing systems that could jam GPS.

China is already of one of the biggest players in the global satellite launch industry and has been busily cooperating with a number of countries to improve its space capabilities. These include Ukraine, Russia and Brazil, but the September 18 signing of a deal with the EU for joint cooperation in the development of Galileo is easily the most significant. Crucially, the Chinese government and corporations will be involved in research and development activities, including satellite launching and radio transmission.

Galileo has obvious market applications for the Chinese, but it is its military applications that are the most significant. Despite being initially developed as a civilian application, unlike Russia's Glosnass system or America's GPS, Galileo has a military dimension in its premium Public Regulated Service (PRS) capacity, intended for military and government use.

PRS functions on a separate frequency from America's GPS military frequencies and, combined with systems capable of disabling GPS, this would give a Galileo-based nation a strategic advantage in any outbreak of hostilities. In the long run China could decide to base some of its military hardware on Galileo technology. This has also gotten European defense companies very excited, even though a European arms embargo imposed on China after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 is still in place.

Needless to say, Washington has not been particularly impressed by this incident of Beijing-Brussels diplomacy. Further worries for Washington were expressions of interest in Galileo last week by India and Israel. With the Chinese on board, Galileo now looks set to become a major competitor to GPS in the race to dominate space.

Moreover, Beijing's attempts to reach for the heavens next month with the launch of Shenzhou V have managed to ruffle quite a few feathers, and not just in Washington. In reaction to Beijing's ambitions in outer space, the Japanese decided to merge their three space agencies into a more focused outfit.

It would appear that despite Washington's best efforts to maintain its dominance on Earth by its technological advantage in outer space, the proponents of multipolarity are set to take the battle to the heavens. After China and the EU formally ink their cooperation deal at the end of next month, we can expect to see Galileo and Shenzhou V charting their quiet trajectories to create a multipolar world in the starry skies above us.

(Copyright 2003 Asia Times Online Co, Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact for information on our sales and syndication policies.)

China reportedly relocates astronauts ahead of space launch

A group of Chinese astronauts has reportedly arrived at a launch centre in north-western China, ahead of the country's first manned space launch expected in October.

A pro-Beijing newspaper in Hong Kong reports that a group of 14 astronauts have now been moved to a Chinese space centre in the country's northwest.

China is planning to launch its first manned space mission before the end of the year, and its widely predicted it will happen in October.

The movement of the astronauts indicates a launch may be soon.

Authorities are very secretive about China's space program, and have not revealed an exact launch date or how many astronauts will be in the capsule of the first manned space ship.

Our China correspondent, John Taylor, says much national pride is at stake for the country.

If the launch is successful, the country will become only the third nation after the United States and the former Soviet Union to put a person in space.

30/09/2003 12:04:34 | ABC Radio Australia News

China Bids to Join Exclusive Club of Space Powers

Mon September 29, 2003 09:49 PM ET

By Benjamin Kang Lim

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese legend holds that a Ming dynasty (1368-1644) man named Wan Hu aimed for the stars by holding kites in each hand and strapping himself to a chair as 47 servants lit 47 gunpowder-packed bamboo tubes tied to his seat.

A roar followed. After the smoke dissipated, the chair was gone, along with Wan Hu. It was unclear if what was purported to be the world's first manned rocket ever made it to the skies.

Today, China is counting down the days to its first manned space launch and hoping to avoid the same fate as Wan Hu, thanks to advanced space technology.

China, long mired in poverty but growing fast after more than two decades of market reforms, is eager for the prestige that would come with being just the third country capable of putting people into space.

"With the launch of the Shenzhou spacecraft, China lifts its technological image into the heavens, bypassing the rest of the advanced-engineering nations," said Anthony Curtis, editor of Space Today Online.

Yu Maochun of the U.S. Naval Academy said: "The manned space program is an essential part of the Communist Party's near fanatical quest for international respect and dignity, which (in) itself is a normal phenomenon among many rising powers in history."


A successful launch, on the heels of Beijing winning a bid to host the 2008 Olympics, could fuel nationalism and boost the Communist Party's credibility as China seeks a place on the world stage alongside great powers.

A failure would be a loss of face and would raise questions about the necessity of a space program in a country where 140 million people live in abject poverty, or on less than $1 a day.

"For China, as with all perilous endeavors, the chance of a deadly public failure looms large. By linking national pride and CCP credibility, Beijing is jeopardizing both," Joshua Eisenman, a fellow at the New American Foundation, a public policy think tank in Washington, wrote in Singapore's Straits Times.

The CCP refers to the Chinese Communist Party.

China has cloaked its space program in secrecy, ostensibly to avoid embarrassment in the event of failure.

Stung by a string of failed satellite launches in the 1980s and '90s, China has kept recent lift-offs quiet, announcing them only after success was confirmed.

The date of the launch of the next Shenzhou -- meaning "Divine Ship" -- is a state secret but is expected around the October 1 National Day holidays. Repeated requests to interview space officials have been rejected.

China's first astronauts -- dubbed "taikonauts" from "taikong," the Chinese word for space -- are faceless. China has yet to tell the world who they are, other than they were plucked from the ranks of top fighter pilots.


There are no public details on the launch's budget, though it is believed to be a fraction of U.S. manned space flight costs and is covered under rapidly expanding military outlays.

The launch by China is going ahead despite the loss of the U.S. space shuttle Columbia, which disintegrated in February while re-entering the atmosphere. Seven astronauts died.

Experts said China's space program had no big technology breakthroughs but would incrementally improve existing space technologies such as computers, materials, electronics, rockets, guidance and life support.

It comes as no surprise that China's space program may have military applications.

"As the Soviet Union used its Soyuz capsules and Salyut space stations in the 1970s and 1980s to spy from space and carry out other forms of military research, so will the Chinese," said Curtis of Space Today Online.

Yu of the U.S. Naval Academy said: "This project may boost China's R&D on strategic missile programs, but the cost will be enormous for China."

China has hinted at more starry-eyed space plans. State media have reported on designs for a lunar probe that would be a step toward sending Chinese to the moon.


Hard economic realities may temper those dreams.

China is running a record 320 billion yuan ($39 billion) deficit this year. While the economy is flourishing, the health of the financial system is precarious, and any sharp downturn could quickly squelch loftier ambitions for space.

Some analysts were critical of the planned moon landing.

"A wasteful program such as the planned moon landing conducted by a developing country is just a small step for mankind and a giant misstep for China," Yu said in a wry twist on Neil Armstrong's famous quote.

Human boots have not trod on the moon since the U.S. Apollo program ended with the Apollo XVII mission in 1972.

The Soviet Union was the first to put a man in space when Yuri Gagarin reached orbit in 1961. Weeks later, Alan Shepard became the first American in space, although an American didn't orbit Earth until John Glenn did so the following year.

Experts said China may be joining the exclusive space club four decades late, but its entry could trigger a space race in Northeast Asia with Japan and even South Korea.

"The launch of Chinese astronauts will capture the attention of everyone, especially opinion leaders," Curtis said. "That could breathe new life into the U.S. space program as Americans realize that competition has returned after disappearing for a time since the fall of the Soviet Union." (Additional reporting by Scott Hillis)

China Bids for the High Ground

China jockeys for position on Earth through its upcoming manned space flight

Joan Johnson-Freese

YaleGlobal, 1 October 2003

"Divine Vessel" capsule returns after a test launch: The hope of reaping worldly gain from a Chinese citizen in space.

NEWPORT, USA: As the countdown clock ticks away, best-guesses have set the Chinese launch of their first taikonaut, or yuhangyuan, into orbit on or around October 15, 2003. The date, however, is still uncertain since the Chinese always maintain some ambiguity to "save face" if difficulties occur. The Shenzhou V - "Divine Vessel" - capsule will be launched into orbit by a Long March (CZ) 2F rocket. That event will make China the third country in the world to have a manned space capability, joining the exclusive club of the United States and Russia.

The Chinese space program is an ambitious one. (See "Chinese Astronauts to Compete for Final Frontier"). It is also one which has generated interest, concern, and questions in the United States and throughout the world. Although China generally, and China's space program specifically, are often shrouded in secrecy, the interesting and difficult part of answering these questions is not necessarily in finding information, but in interpreting the information available. China is a country of such size and complexity that analysts can find evidence for any hypothesis they seek to advance. Additionally, since space technology can be applied to both the civil and military arenas, accurately judging the technology's significance is complicated.

Nevertheless, four basic questions seem useful to review in considering the importance of a Chinese manned space launch.

First, why are the Chinese pursuing a manned space program? The Chinese said in their official 2000 government White Paper that space activity is an integral part of the state's comprehensive development strategy. But manned space activity is both high-risk and high-cost, so why go down that specific road?

Some US analysts see China's manned space activity as a Trojan Horse within which they can conceal their military space activities. Others see it as a prestige program for the country, acknowledging that such prestige includes domestic legitimacy for the government, regional leadership, and internationally "playing with the big boys." The US Apollo program, for example, had multiple goals: reaching the Moon in the Cold War race against the Soviets for eminence and technological development (with a military spillover), as well as employing lots of Americans and improving their technological skills and education along the way. The Chinese have clearly read that play-book, and there is considerable evidence that they seek all of the same objectives.

The second question often asked is, "How much are they spending on their program?" Though the Chinese do not release budget figures, estimates from US analysts are about $2.2 billion annually. But what can one conclude from that figure, especially when compared to NASA's $15 billion budget? The answer is nothing. The comparison is meaningless when one considers China's command economy, difficulties with currency conversion, and the fact that China deliberately over-employs people in state-owned enterprises to keep unemployment down. The best that can be said, based on their commitment to the program, is that China is spending relatively significant government resources. Interestingly, the same factors that make comparisons impossible may also enable China to maintain the political will to develop space stations, lunar bases, and even missions to Mars - goals that China has publicly stated it wants to pursue. Ultimately, however, political will can only be sustained by one thing - success.

The will to succeed raises the third question: Will the first manned Shenzhou launch be successful? Such a question inevitably leads to issues of technology. Is the Shenzhou capsule a copy of the Russian Soyuz-A? Are the Chinese merely copying the earlier technological breakthroughs of the US and Russia? What would a successful launch mean in terms of gauging Chinese technical - read military - capabilities? The technology questions are the ones most subject to analysis-through-a-prism. Predetermination of what you're looking for can lead you to your findings.

The Shenzhou capsule bears an uncanny resemblance to the Soyuz-A. Like Soyuz, Shenzhou has three components: a forward module to hold experiments or act as a crew transfer module, the manned module, and a rear service module housing the propulsion system. The primary external difference is that the Shenzhou forward module has solar panels, which allows it to detach and remain in orbit, potentially docking at a later time. Shenzhou III left its forward module in orbit for six months before the module was deliberately destroyed during reentry. Does this mean that the Chinese have "merely" copied the Russians and therefore one can dismiss claims of technical prowess? No.

External designs vary, but just as different models of cars and planes have similarities, so do rockets. The Chinese have long taken advantage of learning from the experience of others, rather than constantly reinventing the wheel. But that doesn't mean building rockets is easy. Although constructing a rocket is relatively straightforward, it does require incredible attention to detail, which can only be learned by experience. It is in rocket engineering that the complications begin, especially when the design must work the first time it is used. The stakes are even higher when the rocket is designed to carry a human payload. So if the Chinese are able to pull this off successfully, it will mean that they have achieved very complex levels of rocket engineering; otherwise, the exclusive club would likely not be so exclusive.

Moreover, although attention to detail is required whether the payload is a satellite or a person, it is the number of details and the "cost" of failure that changes. Rocket science, the physics behind the operation of a missile or launch vehicle, was developed over 60 years ago and is contained in textbooks published in every conceivable language. Therefore, the assumption that behind China's pursuit of manned space capability lies something militarily nefarious is a conclusion drawn from analysis of intent, not technology. Ironically, Western analyses sometimes dismiss China's technological accomplishments in one breath, and see dire consequences in China's manned space launch for the United States in another.

Such contradictory assessments lead to a final, important question, which has not often been asked so far: "What will be the reaction of the American public to a successful Chinese manned space launch?" Washington was surprised by the public's stunned response to Sputnik. Though a technological "blip," Americans saw it as threatening their security and global stature, and the government was forced to respond in ways it had not anticipated.

Few Americans are even aware that the Chinese are preparing the launch of Shenzhou V. When it occurs, what will they think? That it will likely occur while the US shuttle fleet is grounded will magnify how the US and the world perceive China's technological achievement. Certainly, some in Washington will react by claiming that the launch requires the US to spend more money on space - military space. In policy circles, its perceived strategic importance could also chill recently-warmed US-China relations. But will it also trigger a demand to re-invigorate the US manned space program? At the moment, although an austere version of the International Space Station is in orbit, it has been a stepchild while military space has ascended in importance. Maybe the launch will generate nothing more than a passing interest from the US public.

If China successfully launches a taikonaut into orbit, it will "win" in all the ways the United States did during Apollo. If the launch is not a success, China will suffer and mourn just as the United States did after the loss of the Challenger and the Columbia, and then it will rethink whether to continue with the program or not. Success in the heavens is spectacular, but so too is failure.

Joan Johnson-Freese is Chair of the National Security Decision Making Department at the United States Naval War College. The views expressed in this article are the author’s alone and do not represent the official position of the Department of the Navy, the Department of Defense, or the US government.


© 2003 Yale Center for the Study of Globalization.

Posted 10/1/2003 8:11 PM

China set to enter frontier of manned spaceflights

By David J. Lynch, USA TODAY

BEIJING — Draped in secrecy, technicians at a distant launch pad are readying an 8-ton spacecraft that could soon turn an anonymous Chinese fighter pilot into an instant hero for one-fifth of humanity.

A dummy astronaut is placed in the Shenzhou IV capsule for its Dec. 2002 flight.

By Liang Shengshu, Imaginechina

China may be just a few weeks from becoming the third nation to send a man into space, marking another step toward becoming one of the world's top powers.

With its Shenzhou V spacecraft, China may be boldly going where others already have been — Russia in April 1961, when Yuri Gagarin aboard the Vostok 1 became the first human in space, and the United States less than a month later when Alan Shepard flew aboard the Freedom 7. But if the 11-year quest to send a taikonaut into space succeeds, Beijing's Communist leadership expects to reap significant rewards. A manned space launch would vault China past wealthier space-faring European nations and Japan, which have concentrated on unmanned exploration. And along with an earlier coup in winning the right to host the 2008 Olympic Games, it would visibly cement the government's claim to be building a more modern and prosperous nation.

"China wants to say: 'We're in the big leagues now; we're on the same level as Russia and the United States,' " says Phillip Clark of the Molniya Space Consultancy in Hastings, England.

Skeptics say an expensive manned space program is a political vanity project that a developing nation can ill afford. Though China has enjoyed impressive economic growth for a decade, annual per capita income remains just $800. "I frankly think it's a waste of money. It's kind of a bread-and-circus routine," says James Mulvenon, a China-watcher at a Rand Corp.'s office in Arlington, Va.

But such a massive, state-funded enterprise is exactly the type of venture that for decades has appealed to China's senior leadership, most of whom are Soviet-trained engineers. The heavy investment required also is expected to spawn advanced technologies with both military and commercial applications, as it did for the United States and Soviet Union. Everything from more accurate ballistic missiles to the Tang breakfast drink can be traced to the 1960s-era U.S. space program. By some estimates, China is spending up to $2 billion annually and employing 270,000 people on what is known officially as "Project 921."

The United States is monitoring the potential gains for China's military. Beijing has recognized the Pentagon's reliance upon space for its combat edge since the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Chinese military writings often depict American space-based reconnaissance and communications satellites as the U.S. military's "Achilles Heel." The Pentagon earlier this year warned that the manned space program would "almost certainly" lead to improved Chinese military space systems from 2010 to 2020. Some ultimately could threaten critical U.S. satellites.

In January, state TV broadcast footage of Chinese officials recovering the last unmanned Shenzhou or "Divine Vessel," test capsule from the frozen Mongolian plain. Surrounded by beaming officials wearing thick coats to ward off the bitter cold, the spacecraft resembled an oversized green walnut.

That was a rare public glimpse. At this date, few official details of China's launch plans are in the open. The Web site of People's Daily, the state-owned newspaper, quoted an unnamed "insider" earlier this week as saying Shenzhou V will blast off aboard a Long March rocket before the end of the month. The mission is expected to last about 24 hours, Clark says.

The Shenzhou V is designed to carry up to three crewmembers, though the initial voyage is expected to feature a single taikonaut. For several years, 14 veteran fighter pilots — purveyors of the "right stuff" like their American and Soviet predecessors — have trained at facilities in Russia and China. Their average age is 30, and each boasts more than 10 years of experience, according to People's Daily. The men's average height is 5-feet-7 inches — about 4 inches shorter than Shepard.

China has been active in space since the launch of its first satellite in 1970, which broadcast from space the Maoist anthem The East is Red. The current manned program dates to 1992.

From the earliest days of its space effort, Beijing deliberately scrutinized the earlier Russian and American ventures, taking away insights that allowed it to "hit the ground running," Clark says.

Chinese officials have made clear that they want to do more than simply reprise the U.S. Apollo program. Deriding the U.S. moon effort for achieving no lasting presence there, some here talk of sending unmanned flights to the moon and eventually mining minerals there.

Once China places a man in orbit, the next step — perhaps as soon as next year — would be to send Shenzhou aloft carrying more than one taikonaut. Later, by docking two spacecraft together nose-to-nose, the Chinese could operate a small space station. Beijing has not been asked to join the 16 nations that are building the International Space Station.

As is the case with all of China's ambitions, progress in space depends upon continued robust economic growth and political stability. "The Chinese are really thinking big on this," says Kevin Pollpeter, another Rand analyst. But "they realize this is a very long-term goal and a lot could happen between now and then."

Shadowing all of the lofty plans is the legend of Wan Hu, the 16th century Chinese official said to have attempted to fly into space aboard a wicker chair equipped with arrow-rockets and large kites.

When it was time for liftoff, Wan commanded 47 assistants to light the rockets. There was a loud explosion and when the smoke cleared, he was gone, though no one was ever certain whether he had gone in one piece or many.

'Playing with the Big Boys' -- China Ready for Human Spaceflight

Fri Oct 3, 3:10 PM ET

By Leonard David

Senior Space Writer,

China appears ready this month to make a stab at becoming the third nation capable of independent launch of humans into Earth orbit.

Chinese space officials remain tight-lipped about details of when the flight of a piloted Shenzhou 5 might occur, who'll be onboard and scope of the overall mission.

Meanwhile, rumors abound, seemingly pointing to liftoff of Shenzhou 5 atop a Long March 2F booster sometime between the next few days to two weeks. Sources indicate that the launch vehicle was delivered to China's Jiuquan Space Center on Aug. 25, with the Shenzhou 5 spacecraft subsequently fitted to the booster.

Key questions

There are a number of policy implications of China stepping into the human spaceflight business, explains Joan Johnson-Freese, chair of the National Security Decision Making Department at the United States Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

Writing in the Oct. 1 edition of Yale Global Online, a publication of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, Johnson-Freese tackles a number of issues revolving around the upcoming liftoff. The views she expresses in the article are hers alone and do not represent the official position of the Department of the Navy, the Department of Defense (news - web sites), or the U.S. government.

Johnson-Freese believes that to understand the implications of the launch, four key questions need to be considered:

Why are the Chinese pursuing a manned space program?

How much is it costing them?

Will the upcoming manned launch be successful?

What will be the reaction of the American public to a successful Chinese launch?

The answers to these four questions are likely to influence U.S. technology and defense interests, Johnson-Freese believes, as well as policy makers in Washington and around the globe.

A successful launch could bring a multitude of benefits to China, similar to what the Apollo program did for American scientific advancement. But she adds a cautionary note. While "success in the heavens is spectacular so too is failure."

"Some U.S. analysts see China's manned space activity as a Trojan Horse within which they can conceal their military space activities," Johnson-Freese explains. "Others see it as a prestige program for the country, acknowledging that such prestige includes domestic legitimacy for the government, regional leadership, and internationally 'playing with the big boys.'"

Space boosting budgets

China is spending about $2.2 billion annually on space, according to estimates from U.S. analysts. When contrasted to NASA (news - web sites)'s $15 billion that doesn't seem much.

Johnson-Freese believes that comparing those budget numbers is meaningless.

That's due to China's command economy (where supply and price are regulated), difficulties with currency conversion and the fact that China deliberately over-employs people in state-owned enterprises to keep unemployment down, she explains.

"The best that can be said, based on their commitment to the program, is that China is spending relatively significant government resources," she says. "Interestingly, the same factors that make comparisons impossible may also enable China to maintain the political will to develop space stations, lunar bases, and even missions to Mars -- goals that China has publicly stated it wants to pursue. Ultimately, however, political will can only be sustained by one thing -- success."

Public impact

For some, there is an assumption that behind China's pursuit of manned space capability lies something militarily nefarious, Johnson-Freese explains. This is a conclusion "drawn from analysis of intent, not technology."

"Ironically, Western analyses sometimes dismiss China's technological accomplishments in one breath, and see dire consequences in China's manned space launch for the United States in another," she writes.

An important question, she adds, is the impact on the American public of a successful Chinese manned spaceflight.

"That it will likely occur while the U.S. shuttle fleet is grounded will magnify how the U.S. and the world perceive China's technological achievement. Certainly, some in Washington will react by claiming that the launch requires the U.S. to spend more money on space -- military space," Johnson-Freese suggests.

In policy circles, Johnson-Freese continues, the perceived strategic importance of the Shenzhou flight could also chill recently warmed U.S.-China relations. But will it also trigger a demand to re-invigorate the U.S. human spaceflight program?

"At the moment, although an austere version of the International Space Station (news - web sites) is in orbit, it has been a stepchild while military space has ascended in importance. Maybe the launch will generate nothing more than a passing interest from the U.S. public," Johnson-Freese concludes.


China's initial leap forward in human space exploration is likely to be modest and cautionary, said Dean Cheng, senior policy analyst at the Center for Naval Analysis in Alexandria Virginia.

On this inaugural flight of a piloted Shenzhou, China is not likely to take too many chances, such as radically modifying tried-and-true booster designs.

Cheng said that he's seen one report indicating that the Long March 2F upper stage may have been strengthened to handle the increased weight of a Shenzhou, plus the escape tower.

It wouldn't seem likely Chinese space engineers have made radical booster design changes, "simply because it would almost certainly have gone through a much more extensive testing program," he said.

"The Chinese, for obvious reasons, want their manned program to do well, and that means making sure that there are as few uncertainties as possible. Given that they've not put a man up before, this is probably not the time for them to also start testing new launch systems as well," Cheng told

On the other hand, Cheng's personal opinion is that the Chinese manned program, like many other Chinese efforts, will aim to "top" other countries' first efforts. The first Chinese satellite was bigger than Sputnik 1, for example, he said.

Cheng suggests that China might aim for a multi-man shot, probably two people. That would be a case of true "one-upmanship" on their part. Both the former Soviet Union and the United States lofted a single person on their first orbital sojourns: Yuri Gagarin in April 1961, followed by John Glenn in February 1962.

NASA astronauts Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom each flew a suborbital flight to space in 1961 before Glenn circled the Earth.

Get them up, get them down

Jonathan McDowell, a space analyst at the Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., notes that the Shenzhou is much closer in capability to the U.S. and former Soviet Union's second-generation spacecraft, Gemini and the Soyuz, respectively.

"Indeed, Shenzhou is closely based on the Soyuz design. In particular, it can carry a crew of at least two, and more importantly, has maneuvering and rendezvous capabilities," McDowell told

"The key thing to demonstrate on this mission is the life support system. Also, they'll do a lot of testing of onboard systems, as well as some baseline medical experiments to study how the astronauts adapt to free-fall. That's nothing new for us, but they need to get their own experience," McDowell said.

During the Shenzhou 5 flight, McDowell said, the spaceship will likely undergo manual orientation trials, with the crew onboard aligning the craft to a particular star, or getting snapshots of a particular part of China.

"I suspect another objective will be to test out the maneuvering engine and change their orbit slightly, in preparation for future missions which will do rendezvous and docking," McDowell noted.

Finally and crucially, the Shenzhou V crew would activate the recovery system, first jettisoning an orbital module that typically stays in orbit for months, then head home in a descent module by firing the engine to return to the atmosphere and land in northern China, he said.

"Although all of these systems have been tested on the first four automated missions, we can expect a pretty simple mission profile on this first flight with a crew, McDowell said.

"Go up, check that the life support systems work with an actual crew onboard -- air, water, food, temperature, and, yes, waste disposal -- test out a few other basic things like the rocket engine and attitude control, and then get the astronauts back as soon as possible."

China Hush-Hush on Manned Space Flight

Sat October 4, 2003 07:57 AM ET

BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Saturday announced plans to launch a satellite to monitor the Earth but made no mention of its top-secret first manned space flight expected any day now.

State television said China would launch a satellite at the end of 2003 in line with a Sino-European surveying project.

"The testing of the Long March 2 carrier rocket is running smoothly and the launch will be carried out as scheduled," it said, without giving details.

China is expected in the next few days to become only the third country to put a person into orbit after the former Soviet Union and the United States.

Official media have been secretive about the launch date, but speculation is widespread it would be during or near the week-long National Day holiday, which started on October 1.

An official at the China Aviation Manned Aircraft Office told Reuters China would officially announce the date of the launch ahead of time.

"It's hard to say," he said when asked if the launch would be during the holiday or later in the month.

Another official, who declined to be identified, said: "We'll officially announce the date of launch and the number of spaceman at the right time. We won't give any details before that."

China has announced plans for probes of the moon and Mars and already is established as a launcher of rockets for satellites.

A successful manned flight, on the heels of Beijing winning a bid to host the 2008 Olympics, could fuel nationalism and boost the Communist Party's credibility as China seeks a place on the world stage alongside great powers.

A failure would be a loss of face and would raise questions about the necessity of a space program in a country where 140 million people live on less than $1 a day.

The Beijing Review magazine said 14 air force pilots had been chosen as a pool of candidates for the manned flight, based on strict physical and psychological tests. There are believed to be three seats.

"All are 1.7 meters (about 5' 7") high and weigh around 65 kg (143 lb)," it quoted Su Shuangning, chief commander of the astronauts-training sector, as saying.

"More than 20 kinds of China-made and researched space food have been prepared. And the spacesuits to be worn by the astronauts, which weigh about 10 kg apiece and each cost as much as a luxury car, are ready for use."

China expects boost from space program


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

BEIJING -- Soon, maybe this month, from a town at the edge of the Gobi Desert -- not far from the terminus of the Great Wall -- one man, or maybe two, will blast into space.

After four unmanned trial flights, China hopes to launch and successfully return its yuhangyuan -- astronaut, or, literally translated, universe traveler -- aboard a spacecraft called Shenzhou V.

China would become the third nation to achieve manned spaceflight. The feat -- the details of which are secret -- would follow those of the Soviet Union and the United States by 42 years, but being No. 3 would not diminish the significance for a country eager to join the ranks of the world's leading powers.

"For the Chinese nation, it is a big event," said Zhai Liyuan, a physicist with the China Association for Science and Technology. "In modern history, China has always been behind in science and technology. Now China can be at the same level as the world powers."

A shot at glory

China's reach for the stars doesn't end with a low Earth orbit. It has stated its ambition to explore the moon, build a space station and send a probe to Mars by 2020.

The propaganda value of such achievements is undeniable. They would help bestow legitimacy on a Communist leadership struggling with a multitude of social and economic ills while galvanizing national pride and proving the country's technological prowess, analysts say.

Beyond prestige, Beijing hopes its space program will yield technical benefits for the military and advances in communications, medical technology and other fields, much as the Apollo program did for the United States in the 1960s.

A government paper on the space program acknowledges an attempt to recapture a bit of China's ancient glory.

"The Chinese nation created a glorious civilization in the early stage of mankind's history," it said. "The gunpowder 'rocket' invented by the ancient Chinese was the embryo of modern space rockets."

The report goes on to call the space industry "an integral part of the state's comprehensive development strategy."

"Practically speaking, the main goal for China is, like the United States did, to accelerate high-level scientific developments," Zhai said. "Internationally, the vast majority of patents, inventions and scientific discoveries are from the developed countries. China has very few."

War an eye-opener

While China has launched satellites for more than 30 years, the manned space program was started partly as a reaction to the advanced U.S. military technology displayed in the 1991 Gulf War, said Charles Vick, an expert on Chinese and Russian space programs and a consultant for

"The information warfare that we developed and utilized during that war was overwhelming," Vick said. "They realized how weak they actually were."

China began its manned spaceflight program in 1992.

"The key to modern wars lies in outer space, where the most advanced national defense appliance of the United States, the missile defense system, is established," Chen Ning Yang, a physicist at Tsinghua University and a U.S. Nobel laureate, told Hong Kong media recently.

The military will benefit from gains in associated industries, including materials, electronics and robotic systems, Vick said. It also will benefit from improvements in procedures such as controlling, maneuvering and eventually docking spacecraft.

The space program also sends a strong message to political rival Taiwan, noted Dean Cheng, senior Asia analyst with the CNA Corp., a nonprofit think tank.

It can be viewed as "a cudgel . . . a means of reminding Taiwan that the Chinese can attain the strategic high ground," Cheng said, while also appealing to Taiwanese to "feel some of the glory" of the Chinese nation.

Competition with India, which has announced plans for a lunar mission in 2008, also is prodding China.

"Chinese scientists think if they don't intensify their efforts, they will fall behind India," Zhai said. "It's a worry for them."

The Shenzhou (divine vessel) spacecraft, based on Russia's Soyuz but overhauled by Chinese scientists, first took off in 1999. It orbited for one day. Later launches, for seven days each, were increasingly complex. Shenzhou III carried a test dummy, and Shenzhou IV had a life support system.

14 pilots in training

The launch date for Shenzhou V is being kept secret. Officials have said only that it will take place this year.

Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV quoted unnamed experts as saying launch will be between Oct. 10 and 17 and will carry two men. Weather is a factor in setting the date.

The spacecraft, along with the Long March 2F rocket that will launch it, were moved several months ago to the Jiuquan Space Launch Center in Gansu province, in northwestern China.

Fourteen fighter pilots, all male, have been training in secret to be China's first astronauts. The trainees' names are being withheld, but the 21st Century News said three were candidates for the first flight.

China space program plans big splash

Beijing-AP -- China plans to make its mark in space with a flourish.

Official media say the communist nation could put its first man in space within days. That would make China just the third country after the U-S and Russia to do so.

According to an official government newspaper, the communist country then plans to send a research satellite to orbit the moon within the next three years.

The Beijing Youth Daily says the satellite would orbit the moon for one year and collect data on geology, soil conditions, environment and resources.

Its launch would mark the "third milestone" in the Chinese space program, after the launching of satellites and manned spaceflight. The report makes no mention of any manned moon shot.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

China Plans to Launch Satellite to Orbit Moon

As its first attempt at manned space flight nears, China has announced plans to launch a research satellite that would orbit the moon.

07/10/2003 14:10

The official media say the satellite would be placed into orbit within the next three years, and would function for about a year. Officials say that after the launch, it will take eight or nine days for the satellite to reach the moon.

China's manned space program is shrouded in secrecy, and there has been no announcement of when the first manned space flight will take place. Experts say they expect it to happen near the end of this month.

China would become just the third country to put a person into orbit, after the former Soviet Union and the United States. Unlike those country's first manned space flights, China's will involve more than one astronaut.

Earlier this year, the Chinese space agency successfully launched an unmanned space capsule. That spacecraft orbited the earth for a week before landing in a northern desert region.

Posted 10/8/2003 12:12 AM

Report: China will launch manned space flight on Oct. 15

BEIJING (AP) — After 11 years of planning, China's first manned space flight could come down to this: one man, a two-pound sack of seeds and a single 90-minute loop around the planet.

Giving the firmest signs yet that China is about to blast a "taikonaut" into orbit, news reports Wednesday said it would take place Oct. 15 and be shown live on television. In Indonesia, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said the Shenzhou 5 craft would take off with a human crew "soon, very soon."

A successful launch would make China only the third nation capable of manned space flight. The Communist Party, its image battered by corruption scandals, could boost its public approval in the reflected glory of a nationalistic triumph.

The Oct. 15 date was reported by, a mainland Web site. It quoted Phoenix TV, a Hong Kong broadcaster that is led by a former Chinese military officer and has close ties to Beijing.

A launch then would come a day after the closing of a meeting of Communist Party leaders. Coming shortly after the Oct. 1 anniversary of 54 years of communist rule, that would heighten the public link between the space program and the party. said the Shenzhou 5 capsule, whose name means "Divine Vessel," would carry a single astronaut and orbit Earth once for 90 minutes before landing.

The capsule is to carry plant seeds for research but no other scientific equipment "to ensure the astronaut has space," said, citing Xie Guangxuan, director of the government's China Rocket Design Department.

"China's space technology has been created by China itself. We may have started later than Russia and the United States, but it's amazing how fast we've been able to do this," Xie was quoted as saying.

The government hasn't announced a launch date or said how many astronauts the flight would carry or how long it will last. Xie also didn't say how many would make the first flight.

But the sudden rush of information in state-run newspapers and on Web sites after months of official silence suggests the government's confidence is growing.

The Shenzhou is based on Russia's three-seat Soyuz, though with extensive modifications. The Chinese capsule is even bigger than the Soyuz, giving Beijing room aboard to send up more than one astronaut right from the start.

In addition, four previous unmanned Shenzhou capsules have spent nearly a week in orbit and circled Earth more than 100 times before landing by parachute on China's northern grasslands.

But Xie, cited by, noted that Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space in 1961, spent only 90 minutes aloft and made one orbit. That suggested China might want only to match his record without taking extra risks. said Xie was "full of confidence" about the launch and said the beginning of the mission would be carried live by China Central Television, the government broadcaster that reaches nearly 1 billion Chinese.

The launch base is near the Gobi Desert town of Jiuquan, a former oasis town on the ancient Silk Road in Gansu province, 900 miles west of Beijing.

The 14 members of China's astronaut corps have gathered at a hotel in Gansu, the Beijing newspaper Star Daily reported, quoting unidentified officials. It said three taikonauts would be picked as finalists for the first flight.

The candidates are all military pilots picked from among 2,000 applicants, according to earlier reports. Their identities have never been announced, though space enthusiasts have posted a list of names and a photo said to show two of them on the Internet.

All 14 passed psychological tests "with honors," the Star Daily said.

"I can guarantee you that most of the astronauts can fulfill their assignment successfully," an official was quoted as saying in another newspaper, the Express News of Guangzhou.

Beijing has nurtured the dream of manned space flight since at least the early 1970s, when its first program was scrapped during the upheaval of the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution. The current effort began in 1992 under the code name Project 921.

The Shenzhou 5 mission will also mark the debut of authentic Chinese food in space, another Web site reported.

"They'll be able to eat shredded pork with garlic sauce and kungpao chicken," said. "It will be more tasty than Western food. After the meal, green tea will be available to increase the astronaut's spirits."

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

China's Space Base Not Where It Was Believed to Be

Thu Oct 9, 7:01 AM ET

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's space program is so secretive that even the desert launch pad is not where everyone thought.

It seems the launch site of Jiuquan, described for years in state media as in the western province of Gansu, is actually over the border in the region of Inner Mongolia

At least that's what officials in the Gobi Desert hinterland say. Local government officials said Thursday the secluded army-run base, also known as Dongfeng Space City, was indeed in Inner Mongolia.

"Dongfeng Space City lies in the territory of Inner Mongolia," one official told Reuters. "The nearest city to the space city is Jiuquan in Gansu. That's why it is called Jiuquan space launch base."

The Shenzhou Five spacecraft is expected to take to the heavens on the morning of October 15, according to state television broadcasters planning to air it live and tour operators selling trips to witness it from afar.

If all goes according to plan, China will become the third country to send a man into space. But the government was maintaining its veil of secrecy Thursday with a spokeswoman denying knowledge of any launch plan.

Historic China Space Launch a Go for Next Week

Fri 10 October, 2003 12:24 BST

By Jonathan Ansfield

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will launch its first manned spaceship next week, aiming to become the third country after the Soviet Union and the United States to put a man in orbit.

The official Xinhua news agency said on Friday the Shenzhou V would be launched between October 15 and 17 at an "appropriate time" from a launch pad in the Gobi desert in northwestern China and orbit the Earth 14 times.

It was the first official confirmation of the launch window on a mission China has kept under tight wraps.

"The Shenzhou V spacecraft will carry out the first manned space mission and will lift off from the China Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center," Xinhua quoted an official in charge of the country's space program as saying.

"Now all preparatory work for the launch is progressing smoothly."

Sources at two major state-run television stations and a tour operator told Reuters early this week the launch had been provisionally set for the morning of October 15, barring bad weather.

And Hong Kong's Beijing-backed Wen Wei Po newspaper said the craft would fly for 21 hours, or 90 minutes per orbit, before floating back down to Earth the next morning.

It did not say how many astronauts would be taking part in the maiden voyage, but that a team had been trained for the mission.

Qi Faren, chief designer of the vessel, was quoted by the China Daily as saying he and his colleagues were confident about the mission despite the fact China had so far conducted only four unmanned test flights due to "limited funds."


China has kept a veil of secrecy on details of the launch, with scant details leaking in a few state newspapers and in Hong Kong.

State media have said that up to three "taikonauts" could be aboard the craft, although the Shanghai-based Liberation Daily said on Thursday a single astronaut would be chosen from 14 experienced fighter pilots.

A successful manned flight, on the heels of Beijing winning a bid to host the 2008 Olympics, could fuel nationalism and offer a boost to the Communist Party as China seeks a place on the world stage alongside the traditional great powers.

Any failure would be a loss of face and would raise questions about the necessity of a space program in a country where 140 million people live on less than $1 a day.

The public buildup for the space launch began on Friday, with state media releasing a flood of new though still sketchy details, preparing the country for the big day.

An army song and dance troupe was filming a music video to celebrate the launch called "Flying," the Communist Party newspaper People's Daily said.

It showed a black-and-white photo of a girl tightly clad in a spacesuit trimmed with shiny vinyl, the Chinese flag sewn on her chest, with fake moonrock in the backdrop.

"'Flying' will express through song the romantic emotions and spirit of exploration of the Chinese people in their 1,000-year pursuit of a dream," the paper said.

State television giant CCTV is poised to begin a 20-part documentary on the history of the space program on its science and technology channel, the TV program's chief editor said.

The Beijing tabloid Star said the show would deal with the failure of two test rocket launches in 1990 and 1992, which killed an unknown number of people.

JIUQUAN, Gansu, Oct. 11 (Xinhuanet) -- Deep in the vast and mostly unpopulated Gobi Desert, China's spacecraft launch base is quietly awaiting the country's first-ever manned space flight.

A "Long March" II F carrier rocket stands at the launch pad in the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu Province, northwest China.

China is counting down to its first manned space flight, scheduled for sometime between Oct. 15 and Oct. 17.

Since the spring of 1958, Jiuquan, a remote place near an ancient Great Wall ruin, has grown into China's largest satellite launch center.

China's first satellite blasted off here and so did the first four unmanned spacecraft.

A river named Ruoshui runs in front of the town, making it an oasis. Red willows and elms stand along both sides of the streets while multi-colored bushes are dotted here and there.

To store water, a man-made reservoir covering 10 square kilometers was built in the town.

Street lamps at the main avenue, Chang'an Street, each looking like a spaceship atop a rocket, are part of the space flight features that could be found in a great number of places in the town, which also include sculptures, hotels and other buildings.

In small restaurants in the town, young space technicians and scientists are often seen when there are projects underway in the launch base.

Northeast of the launch base lie the graves of more than 500 people who contributed to the country's space cause, including thelate founder of China's space program, Marshal Nie Rongzhen. Enditem

China's satellite launch center brings green benefits

JIUQUAN, Oct. 11 (Xinhuanet) -- The Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center has turned the desert zone where it is built into an eco-friendly city where flowers, grass and other plants thrive in late autumn.

More than 60 oases have emerged in the Gobi desert since the center was founded in 1958, in Jiuquan, northwest China.

It is hard to imagine the scene of the riverside city with flourishing vegetation appearing in the extremely arid desert where the annual rainfall is 40 mm while annual evaporation is over 3,600 mm.

Zhang Yujiang, deputy director of the center, said the authorities of the center had made improvement and protection of the local ecological environment a priority.

The center launched the ecological improvement efforts on the chance that the State Council added the site to a state-level management project of the Heihe River that flows through the area. It took effective measures to preserve natural bush and wood plantations through irrigation, fenced cultivation, fire prevention and the treatment of diseases and insect pests harming forests of diversiform-leaved poplars.

The center invested heavily in building three separate zones --the launch technological zone, the red willow and poplar zone, and the urban zone -- to form a desert city with unique scenery and a pleasant environment.

After decades of environmental improvements, the center has created more than 60 oases, with an average 600 square meters of vegetation for each person working or living there. The center nowhas the Dongfeng Natural Park, the Railway Park, a sculpture park and a swimming pool, and is building a World Park. Enditem

Details emerge of China's space plans

UNDER TIGHT WRAPS: Although newspapers reported on the planned space flight, it was only yesterday stated that it would launch between Oct. 15 and Oct. 17


Saturday, Oct 11, 2003,

Chinese astronauts in weightlessness training in an undated file photo. China is due to launch a Shenzhou V rocket on Oct. 15, taking their first astronaut into space.

China plans to launch its first manned space flight between Oct. 15 and Oct. 17, the official Xinhua news agency said yesterday. It quoted an unnamed official in charge of China's manned space program.

Other fresh clues were offered yesterday to its first manned space flight, with one official newspaper saying the craft would orbit Earth 14 times and another highlighting plans for a music video to accompany the launch.

The English-language China Daily did not specify the date of the launch in its most detailed report so far on a mission China has kept under tight wraps.

But sources with two major state-run television stations and a tour operator have said the launch, barring bad weather, is provisionally set for the next Wednesday morning.

In a front-page report based on a story from the Shanghai-based Liberation Daily, the China Daily echoed details of the launch that have peppered official Web sites posting reports from local, foreign and Hong Kong media in recent days.

It said a single astronaut from 14 candidates, all experienced fighter pilots, would fly the spacecraft, which is known as the Shenzhou, or "Divine Ship," and would circle the Earth at least 14 times.

The 14 candidates have since been narrowed down to a shortlist of three.

Qi Faren, chief designer of the vessel, was quoted as saying he and his colleagues were confident about the mission despite the fact China had so far conducted only four unmanned test flights due to "limited funds."

Hong Kong's Beijing-backed Wen Wei Po said the craft would fly for 21 hours, or 90 minutes per orbit, before floating back down to Earth the next morning.

The astronauts will be armed with a gun and knives in case the capsule comes down in hostile territory, a state-run newspaper said yesterday.

"The craft may land in the ocean or in the forests in a hostile environment," Qi said.

"For the safety of the astronauts, they will take a lot of things with them like a pistol, knife and other rescue equipment including a tent and liferaft so they will be able to deal with wild beasts, sharks and other dangerous animals or enemies."

China's space-launch desert town takes center stage

BEIJING (AP) _ Once a remote patch of land, the new launch pad for China's first manned space mission is a Gobi desert oasis _ complete with rocket-shaped streetlights, lush boulevards and restaurants where scientists snack and talk of the stars.

Glimpses of Jiuquan, a town in northwestern China, were splashed across state-controlled newspapers Sunday as a full-on propaganda blitz began and communist leaders counted the hours to the moment they have planned and anticipated for a decade.

The launch of Shenzhou 5, whose name means ``Divine Vessel,'' is set for sometime between Wednesday and Friday, the government says. A successful mission would allow China to join the club of spacefaring nations whose membership is now limited to the former Soviet Union and the United States.

Colorful pictures released by the government showed a gleaming, rocketlike metal sculpture and scarlet flags lining a road into the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu province.

In the background: a deep, inviting blue sky with a trace of gossamer white cloud _ a depiction of a textbook day for a country's orbital debut.

``Our launch center is simply the most beautiful,'' the Beijing Morning Post said in a headline of thick black-and-red Chinese characters.

Such descriptions provide rare glimpses into China's space program and its trappings. The military-linked program operates under a cloak of secrecy, and repeated requests by foreign journalists to visit have been ignored.

The front-page coverage was a stark departure from recent days, when little on the impending flight was being released officially and the timid state-controlled news media _ accustomed to receiving directives from the government on coverage _ were dribbling out unconfirmed tidbits.

The government made it official Friday night, formally announcing the scheduled dates and saying the Shenzhou, powered by a Long March rocket, would orbit the Earth 14 times.

``The moment is getting closer,'' exulted the western China newspaper Chengdu Evening News, which reported tourists streaming into the Jiuquan region.

Government officials have not identified the astronauts involved or said how many would go up, although the inaugural mission is expected to contain one ``taikonaut,'' a nickname based on the Chinese word for space.

The government's Xinhua News Agency, in a dispatch from Jiuquan, described streets lined with lamps shaped like rockets and spaceships. It described red willows and multicolored bushes along the avenues and said the Ruoshui River, which runs through town, has helped turn Jiuquan into ``an oasis ... with unique scenery and a pleasant environment.''

``In small restaurants in the town, young space technicians and scientists are often seen when there are projects underway in the launch base,'' Xinhua said.

Jiuquan, near an ancient, crumbling section of the Great Wall, has been a center of space research since 1958, when Mao Zedong ran China and his insular approach to governing made sure the country was far behind the Soviet Union and the United States in what was then called the ``space race.''

Northeast of the launch site, more than 500 people linked to China's space dreams are buried _ including, the government says, Marshal Nie Rongzhen, the founder of the country's space program.

On Sunday, a national newspaper, the Guangming Daily, ran an interview with Huang Chunping, chief of rocketry for the manned space program, quoting him as saying the latest Long March rocket represents ``great progress.''


Final test for China's astronauts

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

China's leaders are hoping the space flight will boost national prestige.

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Three astronauts short-listed to be China's first man in space have arrived at the launch site in the remote Gobi Desert, state media has said.

Citing "informed sources" the Xinhua news agency said that from the three the "number one astronaut" among them would be selected to make the historic flight -- the clearest pointer yet that the spacecraft will carry just one passenger.

The Shenzhou V spacecraft, closely resembling the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, is thought to be capable of carrying up to three astronauts.

Tests to determine who would make the first flight would be conducted on Tuesday, the agency said.

The spacecraft is scheduled to blast off from the Jiuquan launch center at what the government said last Friday would be an "appropriate time" between October 15 and 17.

The launch is expected to take place in daylight to increase safety should the astronaut have to abort the mission.

The previous four test launches of the Shenzhou spacecraft have all taken place at night.

Tight secrecy surrounds much of China's military-linked space program and in the past launches have never been announced in advance.


Observers say the fact that a provisional date has been given ahead of time with the launch expected to be broadcast live are signs of confidence among mission controllers that the first flight will be a success.

China is believed to have trained a corps of 14 astronauts for its manned space program, all of them men.

Their identities are a closely guarded secret, although all are said to be experienced former fighter pilots and most are married with children of school age, the Xinhua report said.

All being well the Shenzhou V is expected to make 14 orbits during its flight before coming back to Earth in a landing zone in Inner Mongolia.

If it is successful the mission will bring China membership of an elite club of space powers, making it only the third nation in history capable of launching humans into space.

It will also catapult whoever does pilot the first flight into the history books, making him a national hero in the world's most populous nation.

Cosmic feat: China sends man to space

NDTV Correspondent

Wednesday, October 15, 2003 (Beijing):

China today successfully launched its first manned space flight, the Shenzhou V.

The spacecraft blasted off from the Jiuquan satellite launch base in northwest Gansu province on the edge of the Gobi desert.

The Shenzhou V, or 'Divine Ship V', is expected to orbit the Earth 14 times before returning in about 21 hours. The craft is carrying 38-year-old astronaut Yang Liwei.

Taikonaut feat

China has become only the third country to be able to send astronauts into space, after Russia and United States. The success has earned the world's largest communist citadel the reputation of having a space programme that is advanced enough to send a man into space.

The launch, which took place at 9 am (local time or 6.30 am IST) was witnessed by Chinese President Hu Jintao and his predecessor Jiang Zemin, currently Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), the report said.

Prior to today's launch, China has sent four unmanned space missions since November 1999 to test the various systems on board the indigenously designed Shenzhou spacecraft, which resembled Russia's Soyuz space vehicle.

National frenzy

It has taken close to 11 years of painstaking research and practice to get the programme on its feet. Chinese astronauts, also called as Taikonauts, worked in close co-ordination with their Russian counterparts.

The entire project was carried out in utmost secrecy with only an odd report in local newspapers giving away the big story.

"We hope that our government can give us more information about the launch and let the children know that our country is doing something great. This will make them feel proud and honoured to be a Chinese," said Feng Han Zong, a Beijing resident.

And as the countdown to the big event drew to an end, the excitement has been difficult to contain. Everybody from watch manufacturers to China's popular pop stars seem to have jumped onto the bandwagon to cash in on the Taikonaut fever that's sweeping the country.

Space Weather News for Oct. 15th.

China's manned Shenzhou V spacecraft is orbiting Earth after a successful launch at approximately 100 UT on Oct. 15th. Sky watchers in parts of the United States--e.g., Boston, New York, Washington DC, Philadelphia, San Francisco and possibly Los Angeles--may be able to see the craft gliding across the sky just before local dawn on Wednesday morning, Oct 15th.

China's 'space hero' welcomed home

Last Updated Thu, 16 Oct 2003

BEIJING - China's first astronaut to go into space says it was "the greatest day" of his life.

Liwei Yang as the capsule is opened (AP photo)

"I saw our planet. It's so beautiful," Lt. Col Yang Liwei, 38, said to his family after landing safely on the steppes of Inner Mongolia after 21 hours in orbit.

FROM OCT. 15, 2003: China completes first human space mission

Li Jinai, head of China's manned space program, called Yang a "space hero." NASA called it "an important achievement in the history of human exploration."

Senior space official Xie Mingbao told a news conference the country's next goals include spacewalks, docking two spacecraft, and eventually developing a space lab.

Space officials say the next space flight with a human on board is a year or two away.

Xie said China wouldn't rule out future cooperation with the United States or Russia. Some analysts say working with the more experienced space powers could be China's key to its longer term ambitions, such as a mission to Mars.

If China is becoming a potential space partner, its success is also prompting expressions of concern.

A senior Japanese official said on Thursday that Tokyo hoped China would use its technological might for peaceful purposes.

Written by CBC News Online staff


A US-China space race could mean trouble

By Toshi Yoshihara, 10/16/2003

WITH TUESDAY'S successful launch of the Shenzhou 5 spacecraft, China has become the third nation, behind the United States and the former Soviet Union, to place a human into the Earth's orbit. Not surprisingly, the Chinese government is now engaged in a full-court press to tout this dramatic event as a major scientific and engineering achievement, complete with full-color photos and large front-page stories in scores of newspapers around the country.

But, for once, its self-promotion is well deserved. Indeed, this first step into space promises more economic and technological advances for China while burnishing the prestige of a ruling regime still in search of an alternative to its ailing communist ideology.

However, amid the fanfare, a more important implication of this technological feat is being drowned out -- the military dimension of China's space program and its potential challenges to US national security interests. Indeed, China's rise as a major space power is already being perceived in Washington as a looming challenge to US space supremacy.

It is no secret that the Chinese military controls the resources and the direction of China's space program. From the program's inception, China's space ambitions have been couched in strategic terms. And the dual-use nature of space technologies means that most advances in the civilian space sector -- about 95 percent -- can be converted for military purposes.

How then, do the military aspects of China's space program intersect with US national security interests?

First, China views US intentions in space with great suspicion. Washington's declaration that it intends to maintain overwhelming space superiority above all other nations (and perhaps militarize space in the process) does not sit well with the Chinese.

Second, Beijing perceives the proposed US antimissile defense plan, which will be supported by an array of space systems, as a strategic menace to China. Any conceivable missile defense system would threaten to blunt China's modest arsenal of strategic nuclear weapons and thereby erode its delicate deterrent posture vis-a-vis the United States.

Third, China will increasingly need military space capabilities if it is to improve its ability to coerce Taiwan in a conflict and counter US intervention to defend the island in a future crisis or conflict.

Above all, China enjoys the resources and boasts the political will to invest in space over the long term. As such, even if China does not pose a credible threat to the United States, perceptions that the Chinese may eventually challenge US space supremacy could spur Washington to view Beijing as a future rival in space.

In other words, Chinese apprehensions of US space dominance might easily be reciprocated.

Does this mean that a Sino-US space race is just over the horizon? America's current technological lead ensures that a Cold War-style competition will not likely transpire, in the short term at least. However, as mutual apprehension and threat perceptions heighten, both sides could seek to undermine each other in space. The resulting efforts to outdo each other could prove costly and destabilizing to international security.

This scenario is by no means inevitable. Both sides ought to shape this new dimension in Sino-US relations for mutual benefit. Indeed, fostering healthy competition and promoting cooperation would go a long way toward alleviating the pressures to compete.

China's successes in space could reenergize NASA, which has been in a state of torpor in the aftermath of the space shuttle tragedy. Beijing should also begin to make its space program more transparent to assuage Washington of its intentions.

The United States, for its part, should welcome China's entry into the exclusive space club as a responsible member of the international community and give Beijing a stake in the global space endeavor in order to reinforce the value of cooperation while satisfying Beijing's quest for national pride. But this will not happen unless governments on both sides acknowledge the potential dangers of competition and gains from cooperation. As such, the Bush administration should view the first launch as a strategic opportunity to engage the Chinese.

It may be worthwhile for President Bush to raise the space issue with Chinese President Hu Jintao during the upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Thailand next week. Indeed, Bush should act now before a potentially vicious cycle of competition spins out of control.

Toshi Yoshihara is a doctoral candidate at the Fletcher School at Tufts University and a research fellow at the Cambridge-based Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis.

© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

China's space program puts prestige before real development

The aim to put an astronaut in space has more to do with gratifying leaders' and the nation's vanity than tackling China's technological backwardness

By Jim Yardley


Tuesday, Oct 14, 2003

Amid all the clutter that has been rocketed into space is a clunky satellite expected to circle the Earth until 2070. The satellite, the Dong Fang Hong (ªF¤è¬õ), was the first ever launched by China, in 1970, and is also an extraterrestrial boombox: It broadcasts into the cosmos the strains of the Maoist anthem, The East is Red.

It seems likely that the song, like Maoist communism, is no longer playing.

When China plans to become the third nation to launch an astronaut into space, as soon as tomorrow, the government's top leaders will be sending a new message, to two audiences.

To the rest of the world, China is displaying its growing technological prowess, staking its claim to a future role in space and reasserting its case for being considered a power equal to the US.

To its own people, the Chinese leadership hopes to stir pride and nationalism and to prove that the Communist Party, rather than being a dinosaur, is capable of the most technical of achievements. A full-throttle propaganda campaign is under way, with huge coverage in state-run newspapers and a 20-part series about the space program about to run on state-run television.

"It's primarily about showing the world; it's about prestige," said Brian Harvey, author of a 1998 book about the Chinese space program. "It's a vindication of their political system."

The mission is only meant to orbit the earth 14 times in 21 hours, but it opens the way toward China's much bigger ambitions in space. The government plans to launch a Hubble-like space telescope and to begin exploring the moon within three years. Analysts say China is working to launch a space station, possibly to coincide with the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

For now, though, the Shenzhou V is the center of attention. The spacecraft is scheduled to blast off as early as tomorrow or as late as Friday from the Jiuquan launching site in the Gobi Desert. The government has still not identified the astronauts. Nor has it said how many astronauts will be on board, through there reportedly could be as many as three.

It might seem anticlimactic to join a space club where the original members, the former Soviet Union and the United States, each sent astronauts into space more than 40 years ago. But if China's late entry speaks to its arrested development, it also underscores the country's determination to be in space and to pursue scientific excellence.

Centuries ago, China invented the rocket as well as gunpowder. But Chinese political analysts and historians note that the country's leaders, many of them engineers or technicians, are strongly influenced by Chinese history from the 19th and early 20th centuries, when the country faced foreign invaders with superior weapons and technology.

"From that time on, China has always been preoccupied with copying and catching up with foreign science and technology," said Lei Yi, an historian of modern China at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "The launching of the Shenzhou V is really a logical extension of this line of thought that goes back a century -- saving the nation through science and technology."

The former Chinese president and party chief, Jiang Zemin (¦¿¿A¥Á), who remains the head of the military, which ultimately controls the space program, restarted the astronaut flight program in 1992. (In the 1970s, China discontinued a similar, secret program.) An editor at a major state newspaper, who spoke on condition of anonymity, attributed Jiang's interest, in part, to his fear of falling too far behind the West.

"That has major resonance for Jiang -- for all of them," the editor said. "They're all engineers and scientists."

Both Jiang and his successor as president and party chief, Hu Jintao (­JÀAÀÜ), are expected to attend the launching. "The space program is really Jiang Zemin's legacy, and if the launch is successful, he'll want his share of the glory," the editor said.

There have been reports of debate within China's scientific community about the value of spending so much money on space -- the annual budget for the program is US $2 billion -- and whether the mission will generate real scientific breakthroughs. He Zuoxiu, a senior physicist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who is also a vocal booster for science in China, said he would applaud a successful launching, but cautioned against reading too much into one.

"If the launch is successful, we'll have joined the space club, but that doesn't mean we're a scientific power -- far from it," he said.

He said China spends only about 1 percent of its gross domestic product on scientific research and development. He said he understood the reasons for sending astronauts into space, but noted that, scientifically, there may be more pressing areas of concern.

"China faces a severe energy shortage, the gap in oil production is growing," he said, offering examples. "Also, transport is extremely backward -- look at the railways." But he concluded that "international prestige is the most important consideration here."

Asked about plans for a moon mission, he added:

"Some people will say that we have more pressing problems to deal with before taking on a moon landing, like feeding and clothing all our people."

It is unclear, as yet, how much the launch preparations are resonating with the public. Random interviews in Beijing found that most people were supportive and thought it would be good for China's prestige. One state-run newspaper this past weekend reported that people were pouring into the launching area in hopes of getting a glimpse of the blastoff.

Lei, the historian, said he expected the public to be very supportive.

"The Chinese public is also deeply aware of China's image as a scientifically backward country, and I think the idea of reviving China as a scientific power is very popular," he said. He said average Chinese, along with government officials, were stunned by the technical expertise demonstrated by the United States in the Iraq war.

The emergence of China as a space power, possibly with military goals, has spurred some predictions of another space race. India, for one, is rushing to match China. But even as conservatives in the United States regard China's intentions warily, other experts minimize the chance of a coming race with America.

John M. Logsdon, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, said it would likely take a decade for China to send an astronaut to the moon. He said he did not think that the Shenzhou V launch had military applications, even though the space program is developing antisatellite weapons and robotic space weapons.

It clearly is a symbol of national pride, he said. "It's earning them a seat at the central table on space issues."

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

TAIPEI, Taiwan — China's launch of its first manned spacecraft left some Asians flushed with pride Wednesday, while others saw it as scary evidence of the communist giant's growing power.

As the Shenzhou 5 craft shot into space from a desert launch pad in northwest China, TV stations in some parts of Asia broke into newscasts to report the event. The news quickly spread during the morning rush hour commute.

"I am very happy. We finally made it. Not many countries can reach space," said Alexander Chow, 27, an accountant in the China-ruled territory of Hong Kong . "It's a day that every Chinese is proud of."

Angeline Lo, 22, a Hong Kong medical student, added: "I am delighted. It marks a breakthrough in China's space development."

But in Japan, Miki Kobayashi, 28, said the launch marked a defeat for her country, which has seen its once-mighty economy decline as China's has grown rapidly in recent years.

"I feel like we have lost," said Kobayashi, a dental hygienist in Tokyo. "Japan had worked so hard on its space program. I guess China is rich. I hope Japan can catch up again."

China has explicitly said it opposes the "weaponization" of space. But some worried that the launch was a sign that China's military was becoming more powerful and could become a new global bully.

"China is more of a threat than ever. Not just for Asia, but for the whole world," said Akira Machida, 54, a white collar worker in Tokyo.

But a spokesman for Japan's space agency, JAXA , praised China's accomplishment and said it could benefit space technology worldwide.

"It seems we have a new rival. But since this is not a war, China is not a threat," said the spokesman, Hiroshi Inoue.

In Washington, Pentagon spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin made a brief statement: "We wish them success and for their astronaut's safe return."

The U.S. space agency NASA (search) applauded the launch. It noted that China, after Russia and the United States, is only the third nation to successfully launch humans into space.

"This launch is an important achievement in the history of human exploration," NASA said in a statement. "NASA wishes China a continued safe human space flight program."

Kind words also came from Vietnam, which has long had an uneasy relationship with China. The Vietnamese fought a border war with the Chinese in 1979 -- China's last major foreign conflict.

"This will be a great achievement of China in conquering outer space," Vietnam's Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dung said in a statement.

Some of China's neighbors have long viewed the country to be a backward, undeveloped country. Wednesday's space launch had them reconsidering their views.

"I am shocked," said Monica Kim, an office worker in Seoul, South Korea. "Usually, such technology is known to come from well-developed countries, and especially, manned space launch requires advanced technology."

But 44-year-old Lee Won-hak, a designer in Seoul, said the launch didn't surprise him, although it was making him concerned about China's growing power.

"I feel a bit threatened by the country's development," Lee said.

Taiwan has long lived with the China threat. Chinese leaders consider the island -- 100 miles off their coast -- to be part of China's territory that should be recovered -- by force if necessary. A civil war split the two sides in 1949.

In Taiwan's capital, Taipei, engineer Frank Kung, 49, said the space launch would help China's military.

"Whatever China does, it does to strengthen its defense, so this is not good for Taiwan," Kung said.

China’s Space Challenge

Exclusive commentary by Mark R. Whittington

Nov 14, 2003

Six hundred years separate Colonel Yang Liwei, pilot of the Shenzhou 5 spacecraft, and Admiral Zheng He, the 15th Century “Columbus of China.” Both men, however, are linked indelibly. The seven voyages of Zheng He, had the Ming dynasty mandarins been wiser, might have been just the beginning of a brilliant age of exploration. The twenty-one hour flight, last month, of Yang Liwei will be the start of a new space age, and perhaps not just for China.

Between 1405 and 1433, Zheng He undertook seven voyages of discovery, visiting Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Arabia, and East Africa. These voyages were undertaken to further commerce, to gather tribute, and to enhance the prestige of the Ming Emperor Zhu Di.

With the death of Zhu Di, the Chinese program of overseas exploration was ended, mainly on the advice of the new Emperor’s Mandarin advisors. There were several reasons for this decision. First, Mongol incursions from the north demanded a diversion of resources from naval to land operations. Second, a version of Neo Confucianism popular among the Mandarins in that day disdained the importation of new ideas that sea voyages would cause. Finally, the Chinese concentrated on inland trade, facilitated by a canal system, rather than overseas trade.

In less than a hundred years, not only had voyages of exploration ceased, but China’s deep water trade had collapsed. By imperial decree, voyaging beyond China’s shores in a ship of more than two masts without special permission was punishable by death. China had entered a xenophobic, isolationist phase from which she had only recently emerged.

The decision to end voyages of exploration and hence overseas trade was a long-term disaster for China. In effect, the Ming dynasty Mandarins ceded the future to European explorers, inspired by Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal, motivated by “God, glory, and gold” to voyage across the Earth, spreading European influence and enhancing European power. By the 19th Century, its power atrophied by centuries of isolation, China had become the doormat of European and American merchant adventurers, unable to resist the depredations of the opium trade.

Fast forward to October, 2003. An invigorated China has just launched its first manned, orbital mission. Many pundits in the West dismiss the flight of the Shenzhou 5 as copying the Gargarin and Glenn’s flights of over forty years ago. The Shenzhou, of course, is a far more sophisticated space vehicle than either the Soviet Vostok or the American Mercury. The implications of the flight of the Shenzhou 5, and what it will lead to, should be of great concern to the West.

By the end of the current decade, the Chinese will have mastered the techniques of docking, and space walking. They will have orbited their first space station, comparable in size and capability to the Soviet Mir. They will have launched their first unmanned probe in orbit around the Moon, to prospect for resources and to pinpoint prime locations for future landings. Finally, China will be well on her way to developing space military capabilities, including real time Earth surveillance, the ability to attack American space assets, and evasion and maneuvering technology to permit nuclear missiles to penetrate American defense systems.

Beyond that, China seems to have set her sights on the Moon. ," Luan Enjie, director of the China National Space Administration, suggested the day after the return of the Shenzhou 5, that plans to orbit an unmanned probe around the Moon by 2008 were just the beginning. Though Luan and other Chinese space officials have declined to reveal timetables, Chinese lunar ambitions include eventual manned landings and a lunar settlement for the purpose of utilizing the resources of the Moon.

Meanwhile, the American space program is in a dysfunctional state. Ever since the suspension of the Apollo era exploration of the Moon—a decision eerily like the cancellation of China’s Ming era overseas exploration—America’s manned space effort has been stuck going around in circles in low Earth orbit. While there is some hope for a breakthrough in the private space launch realm, thanks to the X Prize competition, America’s space future seems clouded by confusion and self-doubt.

The situation in 2003 seems the reverse of what it was in the 15th Century. While the West hangs back, China surges ahead in what some are already calling the “Great Leap Outward.” The West is in serious danger of ceding the future that space exploration offers to the Chinese, just as China ceded the future offered by overseas exploration almost six hundred years ago.

Does all of this matter? Despite European sneering about the United States as a bullying, cowboy “hyper power”, American power has been a force for good in the world. Three times in the 20th Century—during World War 1, World War 2, and the Cold War—American blood and treasure literally saved the world from tyranny. The 21st Century War on Terror has already brought freedom to Afghanistan and Iraq.

China’s current government, on the other hand, does not value either human freedom or peace with China’s neighbors. China deals with both political and religious dissidents with remarkable brutality. China has undertaken a massive military buildup with the intention of intimidating and eventually dominating her neighbors. China has engaged in bellicose behavior, as when a Chinese General threatened the city of Los Angeles with nuclear annihilation should the United States interfere with China’s imperial ambitions toward Taiwan.

A world in which China is the dominate super power, unrestrained by American strength, is one too nightmarish to contemplate. The exploration of space is the key to super power status in the 21st Century, just as overseas exploration was that key starting in the 15th Century. If our descendents are not to face a Chinese dominated world, then the United States and her allies had better get serious about utilizing the high frontier of space for the advancement of their political, economic, and military power, just as China has undertaken to do.

Date Released: Friday, November 14, 2003

Source: Congressional Research Service (CRS)

CRS Report: China's Space Program: An Overview

Updated October 21, 2003

China's Space Program: An Overview

Marcia S. Smith

Specialist in Aerospace and Telecommunications Policy Resources, Science, and Industry Division


The People's Republic of China launched its first astronaut, or "taikonaut," Lt. Col. Yang Liwei, on October 15, 2003 Beijing time (October 16 Eastern Daylight Time). China thus became only the third country, after Russia and the United States, able to launch humans into orbit. Lt. Col. Yang landed on October 16 Beijing time (October 15 EDT) after making 14 orbits (21 hours and 23 minutes). The launch is raising congressional interest in the nature and scope of the Chinese space program. The implications of China's entry into the field of human space flight is unclear. Some may welcome a new entrant in the human exploration of space, some may view it as an indicator of Chinese technological advancements that could pose a threat, and others may find the event unremarkable, coming as it does 42 years after the Soviet Union and United States accomplished the same feat. This report will not be updated.


China launched its first satellite in 1970. By October 16, 2003, it had conducted 79 launches. Of those, 67 were successes, 8 were complete failures, and 4 were partial failures placing satellites into incorrect orbits. Most of the launches were of Chinese communications, weather, remote sensing, navigation, or scientific satellites. Some of those satellites may be for military applications, or are dual use. Four test spacecraft related to China's human spaceflight program were launched, followed by the first Chinese "taikonaut" (see below). Some launches were conducted on a commercial basis for foreign countries or companies, primarily placing communications satellites into orbit. China has three space launch sites: Jiuquan (also called Shuang Cheng-tzu) in the Gobi desert; Xichang, in southeastern China (near Chengdu); and Taiyuan, south of Beijing. Jiuquan was China's first launch site, and is used for launches of a variety of spacecraft, including those related to the human spaceflight program. Xichang, inaugurated in 1984, is used for launches into geostationary orbit (above the equator), primarily communications satellites. Taiyuan, opened in 1988, is used for launches into polar orbits (that circle the Earth's poles), primarily weather and other Earth observation satellites. China has several different launch vehicles; most are called Chang Zheng (CZ, meaning Long March). Versions of the CZ 2 are used at Jiuquan; the CZ 2F is used for launches associated with its human spaceflight program. Versions of the CZ 3 and some CZ 2 variants are used at Xichang. CZ 4 is used at Taiyuan. China is developing a new family of launch vehicles, called Kaituozhe (KT, meaning Pioneer). A test launch of the first of these, KT-1, for small satellites, was conducted at Taiyuan in September 2003.

In a 1991 article, Dr. Yanping Chen reviewed the evolution of the Chinese space program, dividing it into four periods: 1956-1966, when the space program was first established despite a number of "traumatic political events" including the Great Leap Forward and the withdrawal of Soviet support for Chinese science and technology; 1966- 1976, during which the space program was able to maintain its course even though "virtually all sectors of Chinese society were torn apart" by the Cultural Revolution; 1976-1986, a period when the space program was put on the back burner, but survived, while the country recovered from the Cultural Revolution; and 1986 forward, which Dr. Chen describes as the "heyday" of the program as the government made space a "cornerstone of the national science and technology development effort."1

China's Human Spaceflight Program

China's First "Taikonaut"2. On October 15, 2003, at 09:00 Beijing time (01:00 GMT, or October 14, 2003, 21:00 Eastern Daylight Time), China launched its first taikonaut-People's Liberation Army Lt. Col. Yang Liwei-into space aboard the Shenzhou 5 (Divine Vessel) spacecraft. Lt. Col. Yang landed on October 16, 2003 at 06:23 Beijing time (October 15, 18:23 EDT), after 14 orbits (21 hours 23 minutes). China's current effort to launch humans into space started in 1992 and is designated by the Chinese as "Project 921" (an earlier effort was discontinued due to economic pressures). Two Chinese specialists trained at Russia's cosmonaut training facility in Star City (near Moscow) in 1997. According to several Chinese press reports, the current taikonaut corps consists of 12 trainees and two trainers, all fighter pilots. Shenzhou Design. The Shenzhou spacecraft design is patterned after Russia's Soyuz spacecraft, although the Chinese insist that the spacecraft are made entirely in China. Shenzhou consists of three modules: the descent module, a service module, and an orbital module. At the end of the primary mission, the descent module and service module detach from the orbital module. The service module positions the descent module correctly for reentry and fires its engines to initiate descent. It detaches from the descent module and disintegrates in the atmosphere as the descent module returns to Earth. The orbital module remains in orbit for several months. It has its own propulsion system, allowing it to make maneuvers. On some of the test flights, experiments were carried on the orbital module in addition to those in the descent module.

Test Flights. Four orbital test flights of the Shenzhou spacecraft were conducted without crews. As described above, each spacecraft consists of three modules, one of which-the descent module-is designed to return to Earth. The descent modules are not reusable. Shenzhou 1 was launched on November 20, 1999 and the descent module remained in orbit for 21 hours. According to Chinese accounts, this version of the spacecraft did not include many of the systems (such as life support) needed for an actual human space flight. The flight was not announced by the Chinese government until after its successful landing, an event accompanied by significant Chinese press coverage. Shenzhou 2 was launched on January 10, 2001, and, according to a Chinese press report, carried unspecified animals. Unlike Shenzhou 1, no photographs were released of the capsule once it returned to Earth after 7 days in orbit, leading many in the West to conclude that the landing was unsuccessful. Shenzhou 3 (launched March 25, 2002) and Shenzhou 4 (launched December 30, 2002) each carried "dummy" astronauts and their descent modules returned after 7 days. The orbital module for Shenzhou 1 reentered after a week; the others remained in orbit for 7-8 months.4 The Shenzhou 5 descent module, carrying Lt. Col. Yang, returned after 21 hours; the orbital module is still in orbit.

Future Plans. Chinese sources said the next human spaceflight would occur in 1-2 years. Chinese officials often are quoted discussing a three-step human spaceflight plan: send humans into Earth orbit, dock spacecraft together to form a small laboratory, and ultimately build a large space station.5 A Chinese journal mentioned a three step plan to send humans to the Moon, beginning with Earth-orbiting space laboratories, followed by robotic probes, and ultimately a human landing on the Moon.6 Conflicting estimates of when (between 3-20 years) the first robotic probe might be launched have been made. China has expressed interest in participating in the International Space Station (ISS) program (see CRS Issue Brief IB93017 for more on ISS). The United States has declined to bring China into the program, although one experiment-the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-that includes Chinese hardware is scheduled to be placed aboard the space station (it flew on the space shuttle in 1998), although the launch date is uncertain.

Guiding Principles and Funding

The Chinese government published a "White Paper" in November 2000 outlining its goals and guiding principles for the space program. The first principle is -

- Adhering to the principle of long-term, stable and sustainable development and making the development of space activities cater to and serve the state's comprehensive development strategy. The Chinese government attaches great importance to the significant role of space activities in implementing the strategy of revitalizing the country with science and education and that of sustainable development, as well as in economic construction, national security, science and technology development and social progress. The development of space activities is encouraged and supported by the government as an integral part of the state's comprehensive development strategy.7

Xie Mingbao, director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office, was quoted by Xinhua, China's official news service, as saying that China spent "18 billion yuan (about 2.2 billion US dollars) on the five spacecraft of the Shenzhou series that have been launched so far."8 Annual spending on the total Chinese space program is difficult to ascertain. Dr. Joan Johnson-Freese, chair of the Department of National Security Studies at the Naval War College, estimates that China spends $1.4 billion-$2.2 billion annually on space, but cautions against direct comparisons with U.S. space spending because of currency conversion issues, China's command economy, and "deliberate overemployment."9

Commercial Space Launch Activities

China announced its intention to enter the commercial space launch business in 1986. (Commercial space launch competition is discussed in CRS Issue Brief IB93062.) Chinese launch services are marketed through China Great Wall Industries Corporation (CGWIC). Virtually all communications satellites requiring commercial launch services are built in the United States or include U.S. components, so U.S. export licenses must be granted to send the satellites to China for launch. The United States thus has played a key role in the evolution of the Chinese commercial launch services business. In 1988, the Reagan Administration approved the first export licenses for three satellites to be sent to China on the condition that China sign three international treaties concerning, among other things, liability for damage from space launches; negotiate a fair trade agreement with the United States regarding launch services; and reach agreement on protecting technology from being transferred while satellites are in China. All conditions were met by January 1989. At that time, commercial communications satellites were on the U.S. Munitions List and export license requests were handled by the State Department. Following the Tiananmen Square uprising in June 1989, the Bush Administration suspended all export licenses for items on the Munitions List, including the three satellites. The suspension was ultimately lifted, and the satellites were launched by China.

The incident underscored the coupling of commercial communications satellites export licenses and overall relationships between the United States and China. The 1990s witnessed repeated instances where export licenses would be granted, suspended, and reinstated, depending on the political situation. In 1997, allegations surfaced that China was obtaining militarily useful information by launching U.S. satellites. The charges concerned investigations into launch failures involving U.S.-built satellites where two U.S. companies (Loral and Hughes) allegedly assisted China in understanding the cause of the accidents and how to remedy them. By that time, responsibility for commercial communications satellite exports had been shifted from the State Department to the Commerce Department. In response to the allegations, Congress returned export responsibility to the State Department as of March 15, 1999. The State Department has not granted any export licenses for sending communications satellites to China since then, and Chinese commercial space launch operations consequently have been suspended. (See CRS Issue Brief IB93062 for more details on the Loral/Hughes controversy and the financial penalties imposed on the companies in settlements with the U.S. government.)

Military Space Activities

Chinese officials routinely call for using space for peaceful purposes, and argue against the militarization of space in settings such as the U.N. Conference on Disarmament. However, the November 2000 White Paper includes national security as one of the purposes served by the space program, and China's remote sensing, communications, and navigation satellites presumably satisfy both military and civilian objectives. Two Chinese satellites (ZY-2 and ZY-2B) are widely considered in the West to be for military reconnaissance. The Chinese space program is conducted by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (abbreviated CASC by the Chinese), a state-owned enterprise that develops and manufactures strategic and tactical missiles in addition to spacecraft, launch vehicles, and other aerospace products. CGWIC (see above) is a part of CASC. CASC's Web site is [].

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) publishes an annual report on "Military Power of the People's Republic of China." The current edition, available at [], discusses China's efforts to develop new space launch vehicles, "counterspace" systems, and to send humans into space. DOD asserts that the human spaceflight effort eventually could aid Chinese military space capabilities. "While one of the strongest immediate motivations for this program appears to be political prestige, China's manned space efforts almost certainly will contribute to improved military space systems in the 2010-2020 timeframe." (p. 37) Regarding counterspace systems, the DOD report suggests that China may be developing a direct-ascent antisatellite (ASAT) weapon, systems to jam U.S. navigation satellite signals, and ground-based lasers to damage optical sensors on satellites (p. 36).

International Cooperation

China is very interested in international cooperation in space. The 2000 White Paper discusses it extensively, and China has cooperative arrangements with several countries, including Russia, Brazil, and Europe (see below). There is no government-to-government level cooperation between China and the United States, although the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has reported in the past that it has engaged in low level scientific cooperation, data exchanges, and participation in multilateral coordination groups with China. China inaugurated use of a receiving station for acquiring data from U.S. Landsat Earth remote sensing satellites in 1986. The U.S. trade magazine Aviation Week & Space Technology reported in its April 1, 2002 edition (p. 27) that NASA and the State Department were exploring "whether and how to bring China into close cooperation with the U.S. in space," but there has been no public announcement of new cooperative agreements since then. President Bush congratulated Chinese President Hu in an October 19, 2003 letter [], and wished China continued success in its human spaceflight program. NASA Administrator O'Keefe called Shenzhou 5 an "important achievement in human exploration" and wished China "a continued safe human space flight program."10

Russia. Russia11 signed a bilateral space cooperation agreement with China in 1994, including cooperation in robotic missions to Mars and human spaceflight. Then- President Yeltsin signed a "joint understanding" in 1996 that included training two Chinese specialists at Russia's cosmonaut training facility. The Chinese reportedly use Russian spacesuits, and Russia provided technical assistance to China in the development of the Shenzhou spacecraft. A Russian space agency official was quoted as saying the design is 100% Russian,12 but Chinese officials insist the spacecraft are built entirely in China, and some Western experts cite differences in specific features of Shenzhou versus Soyuz (for example, the Shenzhou orbital module has its own propulsion system, while the Soyuz orbital module does not).13

Europe. China has cooperated with several individual European countries. For example, Sweden launched its Freja satellite on a Chinese launch vehicle from Jiuquan in 1992. China also is cooperating with the European Space Agency (ESA). ESA and China are developing scientific research satellites called Double Star for magnetospheric studies. The two Chinese-built satellites will carry five ESA sensors. China and the European Union (EU) signed a cooperative agreement in September 2003 for China to participate in the EU-ESA Galileo navigation satellite system, which will be similar to the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS).14 Russia and Canada also are participating. Brazil. China and Brazil are jointly developing remote sensing satellites under the CBERS (China-Brazil Earth Remote Sensing) program. The first satellite was launched in 1999; the second in October 2003. Two more are planned.


1 Chen, Yanping. China's Space Policy-a Historical Review. Space Policy, May 1991: 116- 128.

2 The term "taikonaut" for Chinese astronaut was popularized by an independent Chinese space analyst, Chen Lan, who operates the "Go Taikonauts" unofficial Chinese space Web site . According to Mr. Chen, other Chinese terms for astronaut are "yahangyuan,""hangtianyuan," and "taikogren."

3 Reuters reported that a monkey, a dog, a rabbit, and snails were carried (Snails Blaze Space Trail for 1st China Astronaut, January 17, 2001, 23:55:35, via Newsedge), but no mention of these specifics could be found in Chinese sources used for this report. Xinhua, however, did state that animals were aboard (Beijing Xinhua in English, January 9, 2001, 1845 GMT, via FBIS).

4 For a summary of these four flights, see: Clark, Phillip S. The First Flights of China's Shen Zhou Spacecraft. Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, Vol. 56, 2003: 160-174. (The Shenzhou 4 orbital module reentered on September 9, 2003, after that article was published.)

5 Lu Pi. Manned Space Flights: A Foreseeable Goal. Beijing Review (Internet Version-WWW) in English, May 9, 2002 (via Foreign Broadcast Information Service, hereafter "FBIS").

6 Wang Qian. China to Land on Moon by 2010. Beijing Zhongguo Wang WWW-Text in English, October 26, 2002 (via FBIS, which describes the source as an official PRC Internet site).

7 White Paper: "Full Text" of ‘China's Space Activities.' Beijing Xinhua in English, November 22, 2000, 0211 GMT (via FBIS).

8 Quoted in: PRC Space Official Says China To Launch Next Shenzhou in 1-2 Years. Beijing Xinhua in English, October 16, 2003, 0752 GMT (via FBIS).

9 Johnson-Freese, Joan. September 29, 2003 presentation to Center for Strategic and International Studies. Available at []. Dr. Freese is the author of The Chinese Space Program: Mystery Within a Maze, Malaber, Florida, Kreiger Publishing Co., 1998.

10 NASA press release 03-333, October 14, 2003.

11 The Soviet Union was instrumental in assisting China's space program in the late 1950s, but political relationships between the two countries deteriorated soon thereafter and Soviet technical assistance ended in 1960. See Yanping Chen, op. cit., p. 117.

12 Russia: First Chinese Astronaut Trained in Star City, Russia. Moscow Interfax in English, October 1, 2003, 1155 GMT (via FBIS)

13 See Clark, op. cit., pp. 161, 164.

14 China, EU Sign Cooperative Agreement to Jointly Develop Galileo Project. Beijing, Xinhua in English, September 19, 2003, 0940 GMT (via FBIS). China's existing navigation satellite system, Beidou, uses satellites in geostationary orbit. It is a different technical approach than that used by GPS and Galileo (and Russia's GLONASS), and provides only regional, rather than global, coverage.