Skip to comments.China details space plans
Posted on 10/06/2003 7:34:55 PM PDT by mhking
More details have been emerging about China's ambitious space programme, just days before the country is expected to launch its first manned space flight.
A top defence official, Wang Shuquan, confirmed what has been reported before in Chinese media - that the country is planning lunar landings after it succeeds in putting a man in space.
And the state-run Beijing Youth Daily newspaper has reported that China plans to send a research satellite to orbit the Moon within the next three years.
A lunar orbiter would be launched by rocket and reach the Moon in eight or nine days, the paper said.
It would circle the Moon for a year, gathering information about the lunar geology, soil, environment and natural resources, it added.
The BBC's correspondent in Beijing, Louisa Lim, says these comments are a sign that Chinese ambitions in space go far beyond a manned space flight.
Ready for blast-off
But our correspondent says that what happens to those plans is likely to depend on the success of China's manned space flight.
Although no dates have been officially revealed, the mission is believed to be just days away.
The speculation in the Chinese press is that it will blast off just after a plenary meeting of the Communist Party's central committee, which ends on 14 October.
A leading space expert, Chen Lan, said that "the launch cannot come before 14 October because Chinese leaders will be attending an important meeting in Beijing and I believe some of them, like (former president and military chief) Jiang Zemin, will want to be at the launch site to witness the launch".
Mr Chen, curator of the Go Taikonauts! website, said the Shenzhou V would orbit the Earth at least 10 times in a flight lasting less than 24 hours.
A successful launch is likely to spark an outpouring of national pride, boosting the credibility of the Communist Party.
It is not yet known who China's first man in space will be.
But reports say 14 would-be astronauts have arrived at the launch pad at Jiuquan in western Gansu province and are training inside the actual spacecraft.
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One thing I wonder about though, there always seems to be grand pronouncements from China about how they want to show the rest of the world how advanced they are. I've never heard any rationale about exploring space simply for pure intellectual reasons (because it is there). Do they only want this to serve nationalistic purposes or do they truly desire to explore space?
Bret, I'll take number one for $200.
Lunar exploration has always been a show piece of national pride, there's nothing on the moon of any practical value to explore. And the Chinese, in particular, need to be practical; this is some weird Chinese ego trip.
Neither. They want military domination of space as a path to control of Earth. (There's actually evidence of this, but I'm too lazy to go look it up right now)
Such weapons would directly threaten what many believe would be America's best form of ballistic-missile defense: a system of space-based surveillance and tracking sensors, connected with land-based sensors and space-based missile interceptors. Such a system could negate any Chinese missile attack on the U.S. homeland.
China may be a long way from contemplating a ballistic missile attack on the U.S. homeland. But deployment of American space-based interceptors also would negate the missiles China is refitting to threaten Taiwan and U.S. bases in Okinawa and Guam. And there's the rub, as far as the PLA is concerned.
Clearly, Beijing's draft treaty to ban deployment of space-based weapons is merely a delaying tactic aimed at hampering American progress on ballistic-missile defense while its own scientists develop effective countermeasures.
What Beijing hopes to gain from this approach is the ability to disrupt American battlefield awareness--and its command and control operations--and to deny the U.S. access to the waters around China and Taiwan should the issue of Taiwan's sovereignty lead to conflict between the two Chinas.
China's military thinkers are probably correct: The weaponization of space is inevitable. And it's abundantly clear that, draft treaties and pious rhetoric notwithstanding, they're doing everything possible to position themselves for dominance in space. That's worth keeping in mind the next time they exhort "peace-loving nations" to stay grounded.***
China's PLA Sees Value in Pre-emptive Strike Strategy [Full Text] WASHINGTON, Aug. 11, 2003 - The military strategy of "shock and awe" used to stun the Iraqi military in the opening campaign of Operation Iraqi Freedom might be used by the Chinese if military force is needed to bring Taiwan back under communist control.
According to the released recently The Annual Report on the Military Power of the People's Republic of China, the country's military doctrine now stresses elements such as "surprise, deception and pre- emption." Furthermore, the report states that Beijing believes that "surprise is crucial" for the success of any military campaign.
Taiwan, located off the coast of mainland China, claimed independence from the communist country in 1949. The island has 21 million people and its own democratic government.
China, with 1.3 billion people, claims sovereignty over the tiny island, sees Taiwan as a breakaway province and has threatened to use military force against Taiwan to reunify the country. And China's force against Taiwan could come as a surprise attack.
But "China would not likely initiate any military action unless assured of a significant degree of strategic surprise," according to the report.
The report states that Lt. Gen. Zheng Shenxia, chief of staff of the People's Liberation Army's Air Force and an advocate of pre-emptive action, believes the chances of victory against Taiwan would be "limited" without adopting a pre-emptive strategy.
The report says that China now believes pre-emptive strikes are its best advantage against a technologically superior force. Capt. Shen Zhongchang from the Chinese Navy Research Institute is quoted as saying that "lighting attacks and powerful first strikes will be widely used in the future."
China's new military thinking has evolved over the past decade. PLA observers have been studying U.S. military strategies since the first Gulf War, when they noticed how quickly U.S. forces using state-of-the-art weapons defeated Iraqi forces that in some ways resemble their own.
Since then, the report states the PLA has shifted its war approach from "annihilative," where an army uses "mass and attrition" to defeat an enemy, to more "coercive warfighting strategies."
The PLA now considers "shock power" as a crucial coercion element to the opening phase of its war plans and that PLA operational doctrine is now designed to actively "take the initiative" and "catch the enemy unprepared."
"With no apparent political prohibitions against pre- emption, the PLA requires shock as a force multiplier to catch Taiwan or another potential adversary, such as the United States, unprepared," the report states.
Ways the PLA would catch Taiwan and the U.S. off guard include strategic and operational deception, electronic warfare and wearing down or desensitizing the opponent's political and military leadership. Another objective would be to reduce any indication or warning of impending military action, the report states.
Preparing for a possible conflict with Taiwan and deterring the United States from intervening on Taiwan's behalf is the "primary driver" of China's military overhaul, according to this year's report. Over the course of the next decade the country will spend billions to counter U.S. advances in warfare technology, the report states. [End]
China develops its first solid-fuel satellite rocket***BEIJING (AFP) - China has successfully test-fired its first four-stage solid-fuel rocket capable of putting small satellites into space on short notice, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
The launch of the Pioneer I rocket on September 16 at north China's Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center makes China only the third country capable of developing such rockets, after the United States and Russia, a spokesman for China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp (CASIC) told Xinhua.
The rocket is capable of putting payloads of up to 100 kilograms (220 pounds) into orbit around the earth to help with resource exploration, environmental monitoring and surveys, the spokesman said. The announcement comes just weeks ahead of China's planned manned space mission, which is widely expected to take place next month, based on media reports. The Xinhua report did not say whether the rocket had any connection to the launching of space flights or whether it could launch satellites for military use.***
Richard Fisher, a senior Fellow with the Jamestown Foundation in Washington, D.C., said that China's unmanned satellite program is "accelerating in an upward direction, rather quickly."
That acceleration, Fisher said, has ominous portent.
"They are preparing for a post-2005 conflict time frame. I think by 2005, or soon thereafter, an initial photo and radar satellite constellation will be in place. It will be sophisticated and large, and sufficient for Chinese needs to support a military campaign over Taiwan," he said.
Fisher said that China's piloted Shenzhou can be expected to contribute imaging or other reconnaissance data to the country's People's Liberation Army (PLA) in some form. "It will not be a purely science for science-sake undertaking," he said.
"Their manned space program is, first and foremost, a political exercise for the communist leadership," said "It is an exercise designed to prove the continuing worth of the communist government to the Chinese people," he said.
American reliance on space continues to grow, a fact not missed by China, Fisher said. In the PLA there is a very clear realization that space control, in the American sense, is something that they require as well, he said.
"China needs to be able to deny to the United States access and use of space, as they themselves exploit space to support their own forces," Fisher said.
To this end, Fisher said that researchers in China are busy at work on high-energy lasers to dazzle U.S. satellites. Another part of that nation's space arsenal are nanosatellites, tiny craft that can be used as anti-satellite weaponry. Furthermore, the Chinese have a small aircraft-shaped space shuttle, a vehicle easily modified to carry missiles sufficient for satellite interception, he said.***
(December 09, 2001) China's great leap forward: Space [Excerpt] "The space industry is not only a reflection of the comprehensive national strength but also an important tool for leaping over the traditional developing stage," said Liu Jibin, minister of China's Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.
If China makes that leap, the country's civil and military space efforts could close the gap between East and West in years instead of decades. Technology is critical to China's development of bigger, better missiles and space-based defenses as well as the country's commercial ambitions. Market reforms and cheap labor already are turning a once-stagnant, planned economy into a powerhouse.
Signs of the transformation can be seen everywhere in China's cities. Bumper-to-bumper car traffic has replaced bicycle gridlock. McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken are almost as common as traditional roadside food stalls. Chairman Mao's wardrobe has been mothballed in favor of Western fashions. Handbills and posters are more likely to tout the qualities of European cigarettes than the virtues of class struggle.
One thing, however, hasn't changed: Most of China's space program remains closed to the outside world. Even so, a few Chinese officials are cautiously -- almost reluctantly -- beginning to open up.
A two-week tour of Chinese aerospace facilities this fall and talks with high-level managers, many of whom have been off-limits to Americans, revealed this about the country's mysterious manned program:
China likely will launch its first astronaut sometime in 2003 after six or so unpiloted test flights of its manned spacecraft. The next test flight -- the third overall -- is expected to blast off before the end of January.
Preliminary design of a Chinese space station already is under way. A modest outpost with limited capabilities could be developed during the next decade.
And there's even talk of sending people to the moon and building lunar bases in the next decade. [End Excerpt]
(December 10, 2001) CHINA'S NEW FRONTIER China finds launches lucrative [Excerpt] There also were accusations -- adamantly denied -- that Loral's chairman influenced a Clinton administration licensing decision with a hefty donation to the Democratic National Committee. License approval eventually was shifted from the Commerce Department to the more restrictive State Department.
The Clinton White House announced in November 2000 that it would resume processing export licenses and extend China's launch privileges through 2001 after Beijing agreed to a missile nonproliferation pact. But the Bush administration says outstanding issues remain in implementing the nonproliferation agreement. New satellite export licenses remain on hold. Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., and three other lawmakers urged President Bush in July not to resume licensing under any condition. [End Excerpt]
CHINA'S NEW FRONTIER: U.S. threw out man who put China in space[Excerpt] As World War II wound down, Tsien was made a colonel in the U.S. Army Air Forces and sent to Europe in 1945. His mission: Size up the German V-2 rocket program developed by Hitler's Third Reich.
There, he met and interviewed young Wernher von Braun, the V-2 project's technical director who one day would become the visionary behind the Saturn V rocket that put America on the moon. During their meeting, Tsien asked von Braun to put down on paper German breakthroughs and future space goals. The resulting report is credited with helping inspire development of the first U.S. satellites.
After the war, Tsien became the youngest full professor on the faculty at MIT. During a 1947 visit to see his family in China, he met Jiang Ying, a glamorous aristocrat who studied music in Germany and was one of China's most celebrated young sopranos. Her father -- a military adviser for Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist government -- was helping wage a civil war aimed at crushing Mao Tse Tung's communist rebels.
The couple married later that year and moved back to America. When Tsien re-entered the United States in Honolulu, he reflexively answered "no" to a question on an immigration form asking whether he had ever belonged to a group advocating overthrow of the U.S. government. [End Excerpt]
Manned space flight worth the risks By Jake Garn *** HUMAN SPACE FLIGHT is not a luxury. Nor is it a whim, passing fad or eccentric hobby. Make no mistake, human space flight is critical to the future well-being of the United States and, ultimately, the world. The continuation of human space flight is a necessity.
For those who accept that premise, it is vital that we get the space shuttle flying again as safely and as quickly as possible. Our very future may depend on it.
To not understand or acknowledge that Earth is but a stepping stone for humankind is to ignore history, reality and Manifest Destiny. Through age, natural catastrophe or by our own hand, life on Earth has a finite amount of time left. For the human species to go on, we must go out into the far and promising reaches of space. We will do this, or we will eventually perish on the stepping stone adjacent to endless possibilities and salvation.
....Human space flight is not a luxury, and the People's Republic of China, above all others, seems to recognize that. The PRC is poised to launch its first astronauts, and with them launch potentially the most ambitious plan ever for humans in space.
They have their eyes on the moon, Mars and beyond. The question for our country is: Do we cede the future of human space flight, and the future in general, to them or another nation?***
If the Chinese were alarmed in 1998 by such "full-spectrum dominance," as US planners call it, imagine how much more threatened they feel now that Pentagon fantasies of preemption and permanent global supremacy have become official Bush policies. For decades, "deterrence" and "balance" were the main notes of Pentagon planning, but now "prevention" and "dominance" define the US posture. Such assertions can be made in Washington with only good intentions, but they fall on foreign ears as expressions of aggression.
When it comes to space, the Chinese have good reason for thinking of themselves as the main object of such planning, which is why they are desperate for a set of rules governing military uses of space. (At the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a study of such rules is underway codirected by Steinbruner and the academy's Martin Malin).***