Under President Xi Jinping, China has committed to become a society where scientific breakthroughs and advancements in new technology are the driving force for economic development. The Chinese Space Program is breaking new ground yearly, carrying out missions that no other nation has ever before attempted, and setting a long-term program in place that will transform China, as well as all of mankind. China is inspiring the world and giving a new vision to the future of mankind in the exploration of space.
In preparation for long-term human exploration space activities, China’s second female astronaut, Wang Yaping, taught a series of science lessons to 60 million Chinese students in a live broadcast from low Earth orbit, inspiring hundreds of millions of future scientists just in China alone to fulfill this vision of mankind!
China’s sixth manned mission, which just launched and is designated Shenzhou-11, has a crew of two carrying out a one-month program of living in space inside the small Tiangong-2 orbiting module. The purpose of the Shenzhou-11 mission is to lay the basis for China’s full-sized space station. The launch of this space station will begin in 2018. For comparison, the International Space Station is likely to be retired in 2024, leaving China with the only space station in Earth orbit, and the U.S. will have zero participation! In contrast, China has already invited foreign astronauts to visit its station, and astronauts in Europe are learning Chinese.
China is developing a space station to prepare for deep space travel in the future. To carry out this program, China will also have to advance to the next level of its space launch capability. Its highly successful Long March 2 family of vehicles will be superseded by an entirely new generation of rockets. The job of delivering 20-ton space station components to orbit in 2018 will require operation of the 25-ton-capable Long March 5, which will soon be flight tested. The Long March 5 will also be used for future unmanned missions to the Moon and the planned 2020 robotic mission to Mars. For manned lunar missions, the Long March 9 is under development, a Saturn V-class rocket with 100-ton capacity, which would also be deployed to bring back samples from Mars.
Over the past decade four Chinese lunar missions have been carried out in preparation to bring Chinese taikonauts to the Moon. The goal is not to plant a flag, declare victory, and then leave forever—which was not the goal of President Kennedy’s Apollo program either—but to fulfill and sustain the unique mission of mankind to explore the universe.
China carried out its first Moon mission in 2007, delivering the Chang’e-1 spacecraft to lunar orbit. In 2010, a second orbiter carried out high-resolution mapping of the lunar surface to prepare for the 2013 Chang’e-3 lander and rover. The 300-pound Yutu rover, which captured the imagination of people in China and around the world, took the first-ever radar soundings under the lunar surface.
Next year’s Chang’e-5 mission to return samples to Earth poses many challenges. It requires landing a craft, collecting samples, storing them in an hermetically sealed container, blasting the capsule off the Moon, linking the small capsule up with a ship in lunar orbit, heading back to Earth, and dropping the capsule through the atmosphere to land intact.
The Far Side of the Moon
And, China’s State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) just announced a new, comprehensive 20-year strategy for lunar and planetary exploration.
As of now, there is only one nation that has barred cooperation with China, and that is the United States. Ultimately, the U.S. can decide to join in, or be left behind. Either way, mankind is going up!