China has extensive plans for space exploration

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Monday, December 19, 2005

China is developing and enacting a long term space program aimed at cultivating and proving the country’s scientific abilities. The project is heavily research based and includes plans extensive manned missions and a modular space station. However the ultimate goal is lunar based.

The Chinese hope to develop its own pollution free fuels that may be used in high capacity rockets that may be able to launch upwards of 25 tons into space. The program has plans for a moon based astronomical telescope and extensive research of the moon’s geology. Ouyang Ziyuan, who heads the moon research program, has explained one particular interest is the helium-3 isotope. Helium-3 is thought to have great capacity for a reliable, non-polluting fuel source.

Their recent Shenzhou 6 mission sent two astronauts into orbit for 5 days. The Shenzhou 7 mission expects to launch three astronauts into space in 2007. Subsequent missions include plans for launching parts of their space station and eventually. The Chinese intend to man their orbiting space station with Shenzhou 10. By 2006 the Chinese hope to launch the Chang’e 1 lunar orbiter which is designed around a Chinese commercial satellite. They intend to follow up with landlers and sample collection as early as 2017.

Started in 1992, the Chinese space program has made rapid progress. Shenzhou 6 was their second manned mission and cost China roughly 110 million, quite inexpensive when compared to the space missions of other countries. The programs extensive plans hint that now, more than ever, the program’s progress is heavily dependent on funding. In 2004 the Chinese budget was 1.8 billion, almost a 30% less than in 1999 and tiny compared to NASA’s spending potential, upped to 16.5 billion for 2006. The space program realizes that it must fit into the country's grander scheme.

Hu Shixiang, deputy commander in chief of China’s manned space program told CNN that the Chinese are not competing with other countries in their space research, denying any comparison to the Cold War space race. He said China is willing to put for international cooperation in their space research.

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