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A whole new meaning to "Space Junk"

Two Chinese astronauts are orbiting the earth today, as China pushes its efforts to be the third great space power (behind the US and Russia/the Soviet Union).

A lot of people are saying it's nothing to worry about, as all they're achieving is things we did nearly fifty years ago, and they have a LONG way to go to catch up.

But let's look at a few other facts:

1) We went from where they are today to landing on the moon in about a decade.

2) They have the advantage of decades of more modern technology -- especially whatever they can beg, borrow, or steal past our export laws (thank you SO much, President Clinton).

3) They have one huge advantage our scientists lacked at the time -- they KNOW it can be done.

China is going to be our next great rival, and possibly adversary. It's no secret that much of their strategic planning revolves around countering us, overtaking us, even defeating us. And this is one more step we should watch very, very carefully.


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Comments (33)

There's nothing better for ... (Below threshold)
a4g:

There's nothing better for America than to have a little challenge. Otherwise we grow fat and complacent (read the 90s).

This may just be the push we need to perfect our long-promised, long-delayed hovercar technology.

If we were really on the mo... (Below threshold)
jim:

If we were really on the moon 35 years ago, why it will take another 20 year to land on the moon for the second time? I can't understand this. If I have learned to walk once, why it is so difficult to walk for the second time?

All the parts in their spac... (Below threshold)
LJD:

All the parts in their spacecraft are stamped with "Made in U.S.A."

Oh, wait a second...

Hmmm.Actually they... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmm.

Actually they bought the whole package from Russia. Frankly it's not that much different from that guy from Taiwan hitching a ride on the Space Shuttle.

When they can design and build a launch vehicle and orbiter from scratch, then I'll start worrying. If they have anything like the problems they're having with domestically designed military equipment, we've got decades before they're a problem.

Hmmm."If we were r... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmm.

"If we were really on the moon 35 years ago, why it will take another 20 year to land on the moon for the second time? I can't understand this. If I have learned to walk once, why it is so difficult to walk for the second time?"

Because we're asking NASA to do it. If we gave UPS or Fed-Ex a couple billion they'd do it in 6 months.

And offer a next day Moon delivery service.

If we were really ... (Below threshold)
If we were really on the moon 35 years ago, why it will take another 20 year to land on the moon for the second time? I can't understand this. If I have learned to walk once, why it is so difficult to walk for the second time?
Putting people on the moon is not a learned natural skill like walking or riding a bike, so your analogy makes no sense. Think of it instead this way: it took humanity 5000 years of civilization to reach the moon the first time. Now we're doing it again, but with our knowledge doubling every so often and that rate accelerating, our expectations for astronaut safety make us less willing to go off half-cocked all over the place than we were the first time around, when we were trying to simply plant a flag in the dirt to show up the Soviet Union. "We wuz here first". This time our plan is to get there and STAY THERE for weeks and months at a time, in hopes of eventually settling the moon and Mars...So, yeah, it's not exactly a surprise that we're taking our time about it this time.

I find it bizarre that you would start your comment with the phrase "if we were really on the moon". Does any serious grownup really think we faked the moon landing? Come on now.

When they can desi... (Below threshold)
When they can design and build a launch vehicle and orbiter from scratch, then I'll start worrying. If they have anything like the problems they're having with domestically designed military equipment, we've got decades before they're a problem.
ed, I'm curious to read more about the part I emphasized, if you have any links...
With the dragon in space th... (Below threshold)
spurwing plover:

With the dragon in space the eagle and bear had better be carful

Now consider this, why go ... (Below threshold)
guywhoranpscplanetarium:

Now consider this, why go to the moon, The original moon race was just that, a race, to prove technological acomplishments in a cold war enviroment. However, where are the needs and benefits that we would acomplish on the moon. Consider that to be on the moon, we must have a completely enclosed biosphere, self powered, water and food. and it must be able to sustain all the needs of people for extended time. The space station takes a lot of time and energy and it is relatively quick to lauch a set of supplies, and there are emergency escape methods ( hopefully not to be needed)

PLUS.. the moon is going to be expensive, The best way to make the cost work is to find a way of getting businesses to make some money off of it.

Till the combination of business savey and govt ego come together to make a need and a profit, the moon may well stay out of reach.

I'm all for it. Maybe it w... (Below threshold)
Faith+1:

I'm all for it. Maybe it will motivate NASA to FINALLY kill the money wasting, collosal failure the shuttle program has been. Truly good advancements have been sucked out of NASA to fund that idiotic program.

A lot of my project co-workers are ex-NASA employees who left in frustration at the good ole boy network put in place to continually keep that program alive. The amount of scientific knowledge gained from it could have been done with 1/100th the cost on more conventional methods.

It's been nothing by a badly done PR campaign and the one real big PR flight they had with a civilian only managed to blow her up.

When you consider that the biggest scientific contributions from NASA have been from non-shuttle, much less funded projects you have to ask why we are still putting that pile of crap up in space.

"why it will take another 2... (Below threshold)
D. Doré:

"why it will take another 20 year to land on the moon for the second time?"

Because...

The EPA has gotten most of the technology banned because it was bad for the environment...

...and...

Due to affirmative action we now must have an illegal alien on this next trip.

The Chinese have had seriou... (Below threshold)

The Chinese have had serious problems with some of their homebuild military productions, most notably aircraft. The J10 has been in the "final design phase" for something like 10 years, with it only now finally entering service. They have some of the same problems the Russians did, notably in quality control. Its one thing to make cheap consumer products, another entirely to make military grade hardware full of electronics.

As for why China would go to the moon, simple: To show to its people that it can. By doing something not even the Russians could do, it would establish "once and for all" that it isn't a backwards nation anymore.

Hi FH! Thanks, I was lookin... (Below threshold)

Hi FH! Thanks, I was looking for specifics like that.

It's probably a bit of an o... (Below threshold)

It's probably a bit of an overstatement to say China's manned space flights aren't much more of an accomplishment than the space tourists. While much of the technology, including heat shields, was purchased from either Russia or the US, the Chinese capsule, based on the Soviet three-man Soyuz, has been extensively modified and is certainly not an "off the shelf" purchase. Also, I think the "Long March" booster is Chinese, not a Soviet purchase, developed beginning in the 1980's following a series of failures with their earlier launch vehicle (named something that meant "strong wind" or "storm" as I recall). In fact, over the years there have been persistent rumors that a Chinese manned flight attempt was made, with disastrous results, in the '80's, after which Chinese manned space flight dropped completely off the screen for about 10 or 15 years.

Will this chinese spaceship... (Below threshold)
moseby:

Will this chinese spaceship land with sputnik and the hubble telescope crunched under it's grill?

LOOKOUT !!!!

Hmmm."ed, I'm curi... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmm.

"ed, I'm curious to read more about the part I emphasized, if you have any links..."

Well I like:

http://www.strategypage.com/

A link to the Chinese J-10:

http://www.strategypage.com/dls/articles/20056614243.asp

It's an excellent site and well worth both visiting and subscribing.

Keep in mind that China is really only starting to develop it's own domestic infrastructure. China may end up developing excellent weapons and equipment. But that takes a lot of time and money, and not just in spurts but over a long time period. To develop a modern jet required America to spend billions of dollars over 2 decades. And that's with decades of experience in developing such jets and a wel founded infrastructure to support developing such jets.

It's true you can go far by stealing your enemie's designs. But generally the best you can do if you do that, is match your enemy. You can't exceed his capabilities. For China to really become a military giant would require a massive infrastructure, huge amounts of development funds *and* a means of retaining engineers and scientists. In addition China will have to somehow deal with it's extraordinarily large bureaucracy.

We already went to the moon... (Below threshold)
spurwing plover:

We already went to the moon in 1969 that means the eagle beat the bear and the dragon to the moon already

Oh, I thought this was a jo... (Below threshold)
odrady:

Oh, I thought this was a joke;

"So, anyway, these two Chinese go into space..."

Sending a man (or men) into... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

Sending a man (or men) into space and bringing them back down to earth where you want them to go is the same technology you need for ICBM's.

There's a reason that the military was heavily involved in the space program and it wasn't just satellites.

"where are the needs and b... (Below threshold)
jm:

"where are the needs and benefits that we would acomplish on the moon."
Can you say triple helium? The moon has loads of it, the earth hardly any. This stuff holds great promise for nuclear fusion, although until we get our hands on some sizable amounts, we'll never know for sure.

I think it is a signifigant... (Below threshold)

I think it is a signifigant accomplishment. Let's not get too cocky about the fact that China's borrowing Russian technology. Remember that our own early space program was based almost entirely on captured German rockets, scientists, and engineers. And even after we'd moved beyond what the original V-2 designs had to offer, Werhner von Braun was instrumental in NASA's philosophy of the time.

Now consider this,... (Below threshold)
Ikkonoishi:
Now consider this, why go to the moon, The original moon race was just that, a race, to prove technological acomplishments in a cold war enviroment. However, where are the needs and benefits that we would acomplish on the moon. Consider that to be on the moon, we must have a completely enclosed biosphere, self powered, water and food. and it must be able to sustain all the needs of people for extended time. The space station takes a lot of time and energy and it is relatively quick to lauch a set of supplies, and there are emergency escape methods ( hopefully not to be needed)

You answered your own question here. We want to go to the moon because the technology required to make a completely self contained environment on the moon would have applications here on Earth.

Biosphere 2 is my concern h... (Below threshold)
guywhoranaplanetarium:

Biosphere 2 is my concern here, As to the technology not being perfect. I am personally quite interested and hopefull for colonization of the moon, mars, europa, ( for that matter anywhere that we can get to). I just also believe that to do so.. requires the motivation to be beyond mere curiosity. It has to have the motivation of the masses. Example, California wasn't too populated with americans till after 1848, the great gold rush ( instant motivation)

Now in a previous posting, the idea of the fusion fule of triple helium. If that sustance is the equlivant of gold for moon colonization, causing companies to make a financial investment and for people to urge it to happen, then perhaps it will.

I just don't expect it to happen without the motivation and focus and ( dare I say it) greed of the human spirit

ed-thanks for the StrategyP... (Below threshold)

ed-thanks for the StrategyPage link!

I had to throw this out rec... (Below threshold)
model_1066:

I had to throw this out recently to a lib lecturing me on the inherent evil of Columbus and all those of European ancestry, who stole the noble savages' land: "So if Americans were the first humans on the moon, then by your logic it should belong to us, right? Maybe we should ask the UN to charge a nickel each time a non-US citizen looks at it, or charge rent for other countries' moon landings...and think of the advertising space!"

Hmmmm.Frankly all ... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmmm.

Frankly all the things we need to do on the moon, we could accomplish for 1/20th the cost with robotic vehicles. Putting people on the moon is utterly without value. It is a project merely for it's own sake.

Look at the ISS. A worthless boondoggle which has only been of any value to the Russians. Who charge $20 million dollars for a ride to a space station that cost American taxpayers **$200 billion** to build and maintain!!

It would have been cheaper to have just given the Russians $100 million and called it a day.

Due to affirmative actio... (Below threshold)

Due to affirmative action we now must have an illegal alien on this next trip.

I hear Gordon Shumway is available.

We should send a gay couple... (Below threshold)
mark:

We should send a gay couple, a lesbian couple, a black ex-con, an athlete on steroids, a heroin adddict super-model, a senator with
a topee or comb=over as well so that it looks like America.

Yeah, but they can't even <... (Below threshold)
Tom:

Yeah, but they can't even get it right.

And pay no attention to the absolute stupidity of the guy writing the article. Last time I checked orbit was sort of defined as an interaction between an object and the earth's gravitational field. Maybe somebody should have told the Chinese about that little detail.

This has already been spoil... (Below threshold)
Jon:

This has already been spoiled by Joss Whedon.

Everyone now knows that the U.S. and China will grow up and form an alliance and terra form a whole bunch of planets after the Earth that Was gets used up.

Gorram it, McGehee!

Let's steer this conversati... (Below threshold)

Let's steer this conversation in a not-McGehee's-
fault direction. ;-)

Does any serious g... (Below threshold)
Troll:
Does any serious grownup really think we faked the moon landing?

Why? It's easier and cheaper to fake going to the moon than actually do it.

Will this chinese spaceship land with sputnik and the hubble telescope crunched under it's grill?

LOOKOUT !!!!

Yes. Satellite companies should definately up their insurance coverage and lower their deductable if the Chinese are 'driving' in space.

This whole "Chinese space r... (Below threshold)
Robin Goodfellow:

This whole "Chinese space race" meme is really getting out of hand. Wake up and smell the reality. Not all space programs inevitably follow the same track. The Chinese are not rushing headlong into space-travel in order to compete with the US.

Look at the facts. They spent years carefully waiting between the first unmanned launches of their vehicle and their first manned launch. They spent years between the first manned launch and their second manned launch. They plan to take manned launches slow in the future as well, at the rate of maybe one or so every one or two years. This is not a space race, period. The Chinese are retreading ground that is over 40 years old. And they are doing so at a much slower pace than the USSR and US did in the past (by a good order of magnitude or so). In no way does that kind of behavior look like a "space race".

What it looks like instead is a very careful program of national prestige boosting designed not to have any embarassing failures.




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