Sunday, November 27, 2005

China to Land Men on Moon by 2020?

The following Yahoo News AP wire excerpt details a tentative plan by the Chinese to land men on the Moon by 2020:

HONG KONG - Fresh from its second manned space mission, China's space program wants to be able to put a man on the moon and build a space station in 15 years, an official said Sunday.

"I think in about 10 to 15 years, we will have the ability to build our own space station and to carry out a manned moon landing," said Hu Shixiang, deputy commander of China's manned space flight program.

But the goal is subject to getting enough funds from the government, Hu said, explaining that the space program must fit in the larger scheme of the country's overall development. Hu was in Hong Kong with the two astronauts who conducted China's second successful manned space mission in October. He spoke during a televised question-and-answer session with executives from various television stations and newspapers.

Nie Haisheng and Fei Junlong circled Earth for five days aboard the Shenzhou 6 capsule, traveling 2 million miles in 115 hours, 32 minutes. China's first manned mission was in 2003, when astronaut Yang Liwei orbited for 21 1/2 hours.

China wants to master the technology for a space walk and docking in space by 2012, Hu said. He said China was developing its space program at its own pace, not in competition with the United States.

Full Story

What are the Chinese are thinking with this announcement? I'd guess that they are serious about this venture. It's just too bad that we were content to land men on the Moon six times from 1969 through 1972 and then abandon it in the face of huge budget cuts that all but made what passes for the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs all but useless.

Do the Chinese have what it takes to make this vision a reality? I don't know enough about their research programs to make the call, but, if the Chinese do manage to succeed where we decided to aggressively fail, we will have nobody to blame but ourselves when the Moon and low-Earth orbit are no longer mostly controlled by the United States. But then again, with Preznit Flight Suit Fantasy's hand still shakily holding the joystick on his X-Box, it may be a blessing in disguise for the rest of the planet.

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