Sunday, 6 November 2011

Another Step in the Long March to the Moon - and Beyond

From Popular Mechanics : China’s Space Docking: What Does It Mean?:
On Tuesday, Nov. 1., China launched the Shenzhou-8 space capsule into the same orbital plane as its Tiangong-1 prototype space station. Over the course of several Earth orbits, the capsule performed a rendezvous maneuver and slowly caught up to the space station. Eventually, when it got close enough, Shenzhou-8 made some final burns to precisely match its velocity and location with the Tiangong-1, and the two spacecraft docked, temporarily becoming one. It was the first successful space docking in China’s history.

As milestones go, this could be seen as a small one. After all, China merely performed a feat that Americans achieved more than 45 years earlier (and its space station is about the size of the Salyut 1 Russia flew about 40 years ago). There was a key difference, though: While the first American docking was with a manned Gemini capsule and an unmanned Agena upper stage, the Chinese performed the entire operation with unmanned spacecraft—a feat that the U.S. had never actually performed until recently, and a tribute to the intervening decades of technological development. The question now is: What does China’s recent success say about its goals in space?
Read the whole thing for their answer, but I think it's pretty obvious. This was the next step to a lunar colony. There are many more. Progress isn't being rushed, this isn't a botched job, it's a firm foundation.

As I wrote this time last year about the "Chinese Tortoise" :
Not a new species; a description of the robust and long-term space program that China is quietly executing. One that means that the next human to land on the Moon will speak Mandarin - as will the first Lunar colonists.
This isn't a space exploration program for prestige purposes.

It's about sustainability.
It's about the long term.
It involves a commitment.
It refuses to take short cuts to meet artificial deadlines.

All the things that are lacking in the US space program.

As for the Chinese? They're right on schedule.


Jaye Schmus said...

I imagine China are a much bigger blip on the radar in your part of the world, but I watch them carefully from here. I'd be more impressed with their technological achievements if they were working similar wonders on their society. Oppression doesn't lend itself to the development of the proper interstellar civilization, the mega-works of the Galactic Empire not withstanding.

Lucrece said...

My father is abusinessman with constant interaction with Chinese clients. He's originally from Cuba and was as pro-USA as he could be.

Now, whenever he gets back from a trip to China and arrives at the airport in Miami, FL, he always sadly comments "I'm back to the third world."

Desert Dawn said...

Very soon the standard of living gap between the industrial west and China will disappear. Seems to be the turn of western democracies to experience nation decline and reorganization. Hurrah for China at least one nation thinks permanent human sites on the moon are worth the investment.