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神舟九号发射圆满成功全程

The following video footage is the successful launch of Shenzhou-9 (神舟九号), carrying China’s first female astronaut, LIU Yang (刘洋), among a three person crew. One of their missions is to perform manual space dock with the Tiangong-1 space lab. Back in November 2011, China achieved space docking between Shenzhou-8 and Tiangong-1 with ground control. For more coverage, check out Youku.com’s dedicated page.

  1. Zack
    June 18th, 2012 at 17:00 | #1

    Congratulations to everyone involved! From the lowly technicians to the Taikonauts to the policymaker who made this possible. It’s clear that Beijing has the political will and resources to make good on their plans for a sustained human presence off planet.

    I hope to see a Chinese space station and lunar colony within my lifetime, with the possibility of permanent human colonies on Mars and Europa

  2. Charles Liu
    June 18th, 2012 at 22:31 | #2

    In contrast to China being shut out of the ISS program 20 years ago, Shenzhou 9 launched with German science experiments on board.

  3. Zack
    June 19th, 2012 at 07:48 | #3

    we should really thank the Americans for this; them attempting to shut us out of the ISS compelled Beijing to initiate an independant space program, and look at the results:
    a thriving competitive satellite launch industry (that directly competes with US firms and NASA)
    a competitor to GPS: Beidou
    Chinese plans for permanent lunar settlement

    seems Washington really has a problem with blowback on all fronts

  4. June 24th, 2012 at 00:48 | #4

    Congrats to the taikonauts and here the best wishes on a successful mission.

    NPR often has good stories, though its stories on China sometimes borders on the ignorant also. Here, however, is a transcript from a show called Science Friday discussing the current mission that I think is decent.

    It discusses amongst others why China pursues its own indigenous space program and why its program, despite its bureaucratic association with the military, may not necessarily be about the military. If the Chinese program must be characterized as military-driven, then the U.S. program – despite its civilian vs. military separation – must be characterized as military driven as well…

    Here is an excerpt.

    Jonathan McDowell is the author of Jonathan’s Space Report. He’s an expert on the space program. He’s also an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge. Welcome to SCIENCE FRIDAY.

    JONATHAN MCDOWELL: Thank you, Ira.

    FLATOW: You’re welcome. Joan Johnson-Freese is a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, that’s in Newport, Rhode Island. She joins us. Welcome to – welcome back to SCIENCE FRIDAY, Dr. Johnson-Freese.

    JOAN JOHNSON-FREESE: Thank you, Ira.

    FLATOW: Jonathan McDowell, we’re all familiar with the terms Apollo and Soyuz and Mir and space station. Now we’re going to start learning things like taikonaut and Shenzhou and Tiangong? Should we get used to that?

    MCDOWELL: Absolutely. The Chinese are really ramping up their space program, and I’ve just been discussing with some Chinese friends the nuances of translating these strange words that we’ll have to get used to.

    FLATOW: Why do you think that is? They keep talking about a 30-year plan. They talk about going to the moon. They talk about going to Mars. Are these serious plans, or are they just a lot of talk?

    MCDOWELL: Well, it’s a mixture, I think. The Chinese space program was very measured for many years. They launched one satellite a year for a long time. And then about 10 or 15 years ago, they decided to really ramp up, and this year they’ve launched more satellites than any other country so far. So it’s been a dramatic increase.

    But when they talk about plans to land astronauts on the moon, at this stage that’s really at the paper study stage, and I think it will be another five years before they make a serious decision to go beyond Earth orbit.

    FLATOW: Dr. Johnson-Freese, what is China’s primary motivation? When we went into space, it was political, it was military.

    JOHNSON-FREESE: China, like many other countries, including many European countries and Japan, basically saw the United States and the then-Soviet Union getting so far ahead in technology that they were afraid they were going to be left behind. Space technology is basically information technology in many instances, and it’s critical in a globalized world. So China wanted to make sure that there wasn’t this technology gap that it couldn’t catch up to.

    FLATOW: Why build your own stuff, I mean, and start, like, reinventing the wheel? Why can’t China just hire people from private contractors who have built, let’s say, the Saturn 5 or the Titan rocket go – call up Boeing or Northrop-Grumman and order something from them instead of having to sort of reinvent everything?

    JOHNSON-FREESE: Well, in the 1980s, China was coming out of the Mao era, and they were very closed. It was a very closed society. And by the time they came out of that, there was quite a reluctance in the West to work with them. No one knew how, no one knew what their intentions were.

    So in 1992, they initiated this 30-year, three-step program that they are now in the middle of, and they did work with whoever would work with them. They actually bought quite a bit of equipment, life-support equipment in particular, from the Russians.

    But they were left to do an indigenous program because there was a great reluctance from the West.

    FLATOW: And in fact isn’t there a prohibition in America from the U.S. cooperating with China in Space?

    JOHNSON-FREESE: There are legislative prohibitions for bilateral cooperation between NASA and China. There are some multilateral cooperative projects going on and discussions, but right now, legislatively, NASA cannot work with China.

    FLATOW: Jonathan McDowell?

    MCDOWELL: Yes, I think the – this is a real issue right now because while it does make sense for the United States to be a little protective of some of its advanced technology, really we’re losing an opportunity to work closely with the Chinese, and this blanket ban sort of goes against the scientists’ natural tendency to walk to talk to each other in this very international and globalized world.

    But I think that the Chinese are – you know, would like to work with us, but in fact, given that we’re not willing to, they’re going to just push ahead, and you see Tiangong, it’s not the International Space Station, but it’s all-Chinese. They are going step by step, and they are slowly catching up.

    FLATOW: But wouldn’t it be to our advantage, you know, to work with them, and this way we’re close to them and know what they’re doing?

    JOHNSON-FREESE: I certainly think it is. If you believe that we need to work more with China, and we need to understand how they work, then it makes sense. If you believe that Chinese is a potential near-peer competitor or potential enemy, then the adage, you know, keep your friends closer and your enemy closer comes to mind. So yes, I think we are losing major opportunities in many different areas, including national security.

    MCDOWELL: Right, and I think…

    FLATOW: Where does this ban come from, Jonathan?

    MCDOWELL: Well, it comes from Congress, and I think there’s a – it’s a very easy card to play, to make people afraid of China. I think China, you know, is both a national security competitor and an economic competitor. But I think there’s also a lot of miscommunication between the United States and China.

    When you actually go and talk to the Chinese, they are a little bewildered at the idea that they pose a danger to the United States. So I think the more we communicate, the less the tensions will be.

    JOHNSON-FREESE: I agree, and I think I would also point out that at this point, the Chinese do want to work with the United States very much, but there are a considerable number of their space scientists, especially in the manned program, who feel that their program is going along quite well right now, and working with the United States could jeopardize their program because we have a reputation of being difficult to work with.

    And I think the International Space Station partners would attest to that, that sometimes working with the United States, you have to be prepared for U.S. dominance.

    FLATOW: Is it true that they have a two-track program, one is for manned space flight and another is for robotic space flight or going to the moon or Mars with probes?

    MCDOWELL: Well, the manned space program is bureaucratically under the People’s Liberation Army, whereas the research program, like the lunar probe program, is organized under a more civilian aegis. But that’s really a bureaucratic issue rather than there being a true military aspect to the Shenzhou program.

    FLATOW: Let’s talk about realistically where they might be headed. Let’s look at the next five years. Jonathan, you said that they might be able to have their own space station in the next five years?

    MCDOWELL: Right, well, we’ve been arguing about whether Tiangong counts as a space station. It’s really – I’ve called it a dwarf space station. It’s got some of the properties. Very soon, maybe next year, they’ll launch Tiangong 2, which will be like the Russian (unintelligible) that went up in the ’70s that’s more of a serious space laboratory.

    But they’ve said that what they really want to do is something more along the lines of perhaps not the International Space Station but something much more ambitious in the early part of the next decade, and I think that’s well within their capabilities if they can get their much-delayed new rocket to fly.

    And they’ve been talking about a much bigger rocket for many years now, and it still hasn’t made an appearance. So I think that’s the key pacing item for them in doing something more ambitious.

    JOHNSON-FREESE: In the 30-year plan that they laid out in ’92, that large space station was always the culminating point. It wasn’t the moon. It was first demonstrating human space flight, which they’ve done, second demonstrating more advanced spaceflight capabilities like maneuvering and docking, which is where they are now, and that includes Tiangong.

    But the third step is clearly this large space station that Jonathan was referring to that they simply are not able to launch until the Long March 5 launcher comes online.

    FLATOW: Which would be when?

    JOHNSON-FREESE: Well, it’s in development, but it’s already behind schedule. So I think it’s somewhere in the next 10 years.

    FLATOW: The International Space Station is scheduled to retire in 2020. Would we expect those two to sort of dovetail one another?

    JOHNSON-FREESE: It could very well be that the Chinese space station will replace the International Space Station as the permanently manned orbiting spacecraft.

    FLATOW: How is this going to sit with – let’s say you look at Congress 10 years now. If the Chinese have a space station, the U.S. no longer is orbiting in the space station, it’s not invited to go to a Chinese space station, let’s say, or is not allowed to have anything to do with the Chinese space program, are we going to see, do you suspect, some reversal in Congress saying where the heck are we, why were we left out of these things?

    JOHNSON-FREESE: I think you’re exactly right. I think there will be a loud cry of how did this happen. But you already see members of Congress try to use the Chinese space program as an impetus to get more money for the U.S. space effort, but it’s very difficult to do manned spaceflight in a democracy because while we all like spaceflight, we like watching it, when it comes to funding from government funds, it simply doesn’t get the priority that things like jobs and roads and education and defense gets.

    In China, they have an authoritarian government that can keep funding it to whatever level they choose, as long as they choose to do it, and they will do that as long as they get successful results from it.

    FLATOW: But the Soviets had the same kind of government, and we were in a race with them.

    JOHNSON-FREESE: Well, I don’t think we’re in a race with China right now. I think there’s a space race going on; it’s in Asia, potentially between China and India and maybe even Japan and Korea weighing in. But China is trying to catch up to where we were in the ’60s, and I don’t see that as a race unless we place ourselves in it deliberately, which I don’t think would be a good idea.

  5. Charles Liu
    June 24th, 2012 at 21:27 | #5

    Manual docking successful:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/25/science/space/chinese-astronauts-dock-spacecraft-with-orbiting-module.html

    Had it been written by Andrew Jacobs, there’s probably some gross human rights violation in this as well.

  6. Zack
    June 24th, 2012 at 22:49 | #6

    heh, the BBC correspondent betrayed his own insecurities over size and China when he kept emphasizing how ‘tiny’ the Space capsule was.
    And had this been reported by the likes of John Garnaut of the SMH or Grammaticas, there would’ve been some connection made between this and gross human rights as well. As ridiculous as connecting the launch of the ISS with the US Jim Crow Laws.

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