Skip to comments.Now China is sending a man into space. Why?
Posted on 10/11/2003 2:57:37 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
The writer is chairwoman of the National Security Decision Making Department at the U.S. Naval War College.
NEWPORT, Rhode Island As the countdown clock ticks away, best-guesses have set the Chinese launching of their first taikonaut, or yuhangyuan, into orbit on or around Oct. 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. The 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. It is also one which has generated concern and questions in the United States and throughout the world.
. First, why are the Chinese pursuing a manned space program? China said in 2000 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 road?
. Some American 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, enhancing domestic legitimacy for the government and regional leadership, and ranking China internationally "with the big boys." The U.S. Apollo program, for example, had multiple goals: reaching the moon in the cold war race against the Soviets (with a military spillover), as well as employing lots of Americans and improving their technological skills and education along the way. There is considerable evidence that the Chinese seek 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 U.S. analysts are about $2.2 billion annually. What can one conclude from that figure, especially when compared with 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 launching of the Shenzhou V be successful? Are the Chinese merely copying the technology of the United States and Russia? What would a successful launching mean in terms of gauging Chinese technical - read military - capabilities? .
But if the Chinese are able to pull this off, it will mean that they have achieved very complex levels of rocket engineering; otherwise, the exclusive club would likely not be so exclusive. .
Contradictory assessments on what success would mean militarily lead to an important question that has not been asked so far: What will be the reaction of the American public to a successful Chinese manned space launching? 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 launching of Shenzhou V. That it is likely to occur while the U.S. shuttle fleet is grounded will magnify how the United States and the world perceive China's technological achievement. Certainly, some in Washington will react by claiming that the launching requires the United States to spend more money on space. In policy circles, its perceived strategic importance could also chill recently warmed U.S.-China relations. But will it also trigger a demand to reinvigorate the U.S. 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.
. If China successfully launches a taikonaut into orbit, it is likely to "win" in all the ways the United States did during the Apollo series. If the launching 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. Success in the heavens is spectacular, but so too is failure. .
The writer is chairwoman of the National Security Decision Making Department at the U.S. Naval War College. The views expressed in this article are the author's alone. Reprinted with permission from YaleGlobal Online (http://yaleglobal.yale.edu). Celestial ambitions
Bingo. China will place military weapons in space and blackmail the world. We taught them everything they know and they will enslave us for our trouble.
What exactly? You mean like an attack on the US or what?
Bump!........from someone in a position to know.
I think it's great. Competition spurs development.
Funny... this is the same stance we took with Japan in the mid/late 1930's. Same game just a different player.
These are thorny issues actually. I don't have any answers for them myself.
Re: Mad Mag. I'm getting that same feeling. [peaceful feeling coming on]
That thing still on the racks?
Might have to get a copy.
If it's like it was, many years ago, it's better than the local rag. LOL
They may be right. Their long-term goal is not simply a space program, but a lunar colony; a concept the U.S. abandoned in the 1970s because of short-sightedness.
The Chinese think longer than we do. Imagine, knowing what you know now, that it is the 1800s, and as a colonial power you have the military and technical ability to claim all of the lands that are now Saudi Arabia, and that those lands are currently uninhabited, so all you would have to do is simply go claim them. Would you do it?
The moon has a resource far more valuable than the oil of Saudi Arabia. That resource is Helium-3, which isn't available in significant quantity on Earth. With it (and ordinary deuterium easily extracted from seawater) fusion becomes almost trivial. We have an essentially clean and practically limitless source of energy within our grasps, and we're going to give it away to the Chinese because we are too busy spending our childrens' seed corn on social programs.
If you had the good fortune to see A BEATIFUL MIND, a picture that won some awards a couple of years ago, you might have caught a glimpse of the paradigm that is opperant in todays "Global economy." We are letting China get ahead of us in the hope that they will accept second place with the rest of us. This hope is ill-founded!