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China launches first Tiangong-1 space lab module

September 29th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Tiangong-1 Module launches

China has successfully launched her first Tiangong-1 ( 天宫一号, “Heavenly Palace 1”) space lab module that would eventually dock with a series of other ones to form a space station. China Daily reports:

Zhang Shancong, deputy chief designer of the Tiangong-1, told Xinhua that the module carries special cameras which will take hyperspectral images of China’s vast farmlands to detect heavy metal pollution and pesticide residue as well as plant disease.

Moreover, scientists on the ground will also conduct experiments on photonic crystal, a new material expected to revolutionize information technology, in the low-gravity environment inside the Tiangong-1 as these experiements would be extremely difficult to conduct on Earth’s surface.

The Shenzhou-8 will be used to conduct docking experiments with the module in one month’s time. If successful, China will be the third nation behind U.S. and Russia to have achieved this milestone.
Unlike the International Space Station, Tiangong-1 will be a station shouldered by China alone. (By the way, China’s repeated applications to join the ISS have been blocked by the U.S.. Chinese media to report on the last shuttle launch was blocked too by the U.S.. China also withdrew from the European GPS program, because the EU failed to match funding and blocked China from decision making.) It appears China is destined to push forward on her own with collaboration with Russia.

By 2020, the station will be housing a semi-permanent crew. Russia is expected to pull her module out of the ISS by 2020 and make a space station of her own for deep space exploration. China and Russia have announced joint efforts in this area. China’s docking system is compatible with Russia’s. (Wikipedia.org)

In 2013, China and Russia will send a joint robot probe to Mars.

NPR carrying an AP article writes:

Still, Beijing is expected to press ahead whatever the difficulties as long as it continues to result in international prestige, domestic credibility, technological advancement, and economic spin-offs, Johnson-Freese and Vick said.

There is no question that the NASA program brought tremendous prestige, domestic credibility, technological advancements, and economic spin-offs to the United States. China’s achievement in this area is expected to do the same. The U.S. should continue to invest in NASA and not cut her funding to it.

BBC has some ridiculous spins, with the headline, “Tiangong-1 launch betrays China’s earthly ambitions.” Is the ISS betraying the U.S., EU, Japan, Russia, and etc ‘earthly ambitions?’ Ludicrous.

There are certain to be bumps along the way. China had a failed launch recently using a similar rocket. The big advantage China has today compared to the U.S. and the USSR few decades ago is that China has the advantage of modern day computers and manufacturing. China has also the experience of the U.S. and Russia to draw upon. This has enabled China to quickly narrow the gap.

NASA has done a tremendous job in creating interest around the globe for things beyond earth. They have shared vast amounts of data for scientists around the world. In that tradition, China is doing the same. For example, she made available Chang’e’s data collected from the moon. Sure, China’s discovery in space will benefit the Chinese foremost, but in the same way like NASA, China’s discoveries can benefit humanity.

All of us should applaud China’s effort and not yap away like a poor sport.

[Update Sept 29, 2011]
Beijing TV segment with animation and description on how Tiangong-1 achieves orbit:
关注 ‘天宫一号’:’天宫一号’ 今天凌晨成功进行第一次变轨



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  1. zack
    September 29th, 2011 at 21:29 | #1

    ppl who wish ill for China’s space program are idiots; don’t they realise that if a mishap occurs, it’s not China that suffers a setback, but rather, the entire human race?
    Every rocket launch or endeavour to make it offplanet is a noble one, as carl sagan pointed out, it’s one of the primary things that’ll ensure the survival of our species given the fragility of our planet.

    the BBC mouthpieces who watch in fear at China’s space success can stew in their own fear. It’s not enough that they’re hypocritical ingrates profiting off China’s economy, now they have to hope in vain for a challenger-esque mishap to befall China?

    i should also note that despite NASA’s funding cuts, the United States Government-or at least, the Pentagon- hasn’t given up on space supremacy. Their X-37B spaceplane for eg is obviously not just for reasearch purposes and is quite obviously for war purposes, and yet why don’t i see any other country saying that Washington must answer/explain its intentions in space?

  2. Tiu Fu Fong
    September 29th, 2011 at 22:41 | #2

    An excellent development! However, why did CCTV release an animated video of the mission set “America the Beautiful”?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/sep/30/china-launch-america-the-beautiful

  3. zack
    September 29th, 2011 at 23:10 | #3

    @Tiu Fu Fong
    i didn’t hear ‘America: The Beautiful’ but if overexcited British reporters are convinced that that’s what they heard, then who am i to say otherwise?

  4. Tiu Fu Fong
    September 30th, 2011 at 04:31 | #4

    I guess people hear what they want to hear. Anyway, this will drive a competitive space race I hope, which is what we need to get off this planet.

  5. September 30th, 2011 at 06:24 | #5

    First congrat. to China. It has to be supported by many high technologies, so it does polish the image of China Inc.

    Besides the prestige, it is not a lot to be gained from the investment that US and Russia have found out. What do you gain from a journey to Mars? We have a lot to be done in planet earth like pollution, food, product safety/quality… Hope China will keep the outer space exploration to a minimum but never terminate it so we can all dream.

  6. Tiu Fu Fong
    September 30th, 2011 at 09:49 | #6

    I disagree, TonyP4. If we’re ever to get to getting off this planet, we need the intermediate development, which may not be immediately profitable (that said, apparently the “go to space” technologies spin off quite a lot of useful technologies for earth use). Ideally, we’d see China’s moves towards space spur a Sino-Nippon-US three way space race, which has already been hinted at. As long as it’s a peaceful competition (insert usual Western concerns about rising China etc etc), the competition will do all three players – and all of humanity – a great deal of good.

  7. zack
    September 30th, 2011 at 10:28 | #7

    @Tiu Fu Fong
    i found the clip that plays ‘America the beautiful’, yes it does sound like that piece. Still, i don’t see what the problem is, neither China nor America are belligerents or in direct competition in space.

    Anything China does can be considered by the western media as ‘rising concerns about motivations’ simply because the west cannot control China and in fact, may well be in the process of being controlled by them in turn.

  8. October 1st, 2011 at 06:38 | #8

    Space exploration has no defined benefits. So are many pure research in many areas. We can learn from the history of the US space program.

    * What are the new products invented due to the US space program? There are some but not profitable compared to the cost of the program.

    Most technologies in consumer electronic products are invented in US, but Japan and now Korea take them to the market and benefit from them.

    * Shuttle (a good program in concept but not practical in the start) and the space station are a waste of money and again which products are developed due to these two programs? US gambled too much on the shuttle program and abandoned the rocket vehicle. It turns out to be the biggest mistake in the space program in US.

    Chinese are far behind from US/west in space exploration. However, if you consider this program is only about 8 years old (longer depending on how you determine the start date), the progress is astonishing, so we cannot say China is 40 years behind.

    ===
    The song is clearly American the Beautiful. It is not the first time that CCTV screws up.

    ===
    Resume from an unemployed NASA researcher:
    Years of valuable experience. PhD and considered to be the top scientist in the world. Abandoned by his country due to poor management and stupid politics. Work for peanuts in any place of this planet and beyond. Desperate. Reply to my trailer or see me carrying a sign in the highway leading to the Cape.

  9. jimmy
    October 1st, 2011 at 09:25 | #9

    China ‘s space endeavours should preferably be done with far less fanfare or publicity – the launch of Tiangong1 was greeted with many snide remarks from western commentators. They are a bunch of snakes. No need to inform them of – anything. Read http://www.scribd.com/jimmyfung40 for more.

  10. zack
    October 1st, 2011 at 10:48 | #10

    @jimmy
    For a country that’s still relatively new to space launches, all incremental progress should be lauded with fanfare; even if it wasn’t the western media would still be around to nitpick.
    Let them laugh, we’ll soon see how many of them are still laughing when Chinese orbital space platforms aim solid state lasers at them

  11. xian
    October 7th, 2011 at 03:30 | #11

    That’s a pretty alarmist headline from the BBC.

    China should make it a goal to make space profitable. Tony is partially right. The Soviets sent up a dozen Salyuts, while the Americans only had Skylab. It didn’t help them though, the Salyut program turned out to be a waste of money for short-lived prestige. It is up to China now to forge ahead and put the wheels of profit under its space endeavors. The day it happens is the day the space age begins in earnest.

  12. zack
    October 7th, 2011 at 16:48 | #12

    the problem with China, according to the ppl at the BBC is that China isn’t a democracy, and even if it was the problem would be that China’s isn’t an ethnically western country. Look at how much crap Japan had to put up with back in the 80s and they were supposedly an American ally and client.

    so fuck ’em; it’s good that Beijing has started investing in CNC and CCTV in the aim of making them as widespread as al jazeera english (on that note, have you noticed that AJE’s bias is always anti chinese but pro India and British? something to consider…)

    western analysts such as James Mann have even started asking whether or not the US wants or can afford to have a rich and powerful China, the meaning is implicit: ppl like Mann would much rather China stayed relatively poor and contained.

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