China’s next frontier

Updated On: Nov 09, 2007

China has long cherished the idea of making its mark in space technologies and the Chinese space program is not letting up in terms of speed.

China's first lunar probe, Chang'e-1 successfully completed its first braking at perilune and entered the moon's orbit at 11:37 a.m. on Monday or Nov. 5th 2007, becoming China's first circumlunar satellite. The satellite was named after a mythical Chinese goddess who flew to the moon, Xinhua said, citing Wang Yejun, chief engineer of the Beijing Aerospace Control Center. It’s more important mission is to analyze the chemical and mineral composition of the lunar surface for about a year and was expected to transmit its first photo back to China late November 2007.

This achievement is made no less important by the fact that China was recently just beaten to the circumnavigation record by its Asian space rival, Japan who successfully launched it own probe one month before Chang’e- 1.

Emboldened by this success, China’s state run media has reported plans to launch a space station by 2020. This was a declaration that could once again spark off another space race in Asia, adding to the ongoing rivalry between ChinaIndia and Japan to be the Asian space monolith. India has been planning to send its own lunar probe into space in April 2007. In 2005, China became only the third country in the world after the United States and Russia to send a human into orbit. And even more recently, it successfully fired missile to destroy satellites in space, sparking off an international outcry.

The space station would be "a small-scale, 20-ton space workshop," Long Lehao, a leading designer of the Long March 3A rocket that carried the Chang'e 1 lunar probe into space, was quoted as saying by the China Daily newspaper. Chinese space officials have said previously they wanted to build a space station in the next 10 or 15 years, but the target date of 2020 was the first time a schedule has been made public. Long told China Daily that he was optimistic about the plan because China was developing rockets that can carry heavier loads, including space stations. Engines for the yet-to-be-built Long March 5 rocket have undergone significant ignition testing, he said.

Despite its achievements, China yearns for US support to allow it to be part of the international space station, joining the 16 countries involved. It first has to reassure U.S. over the superpower’s unease about allowing a communist power a place aboard. (8 November 2007)


China plans to launch space station by 2020; lunar probe Chang'e enters final orbit (Straits Times/AP, 7 November 2007)

Chang'e-1 succeeds in "flying" around Moon (People’s Daily, 6 November 2007)