Top Chinese Leader Boasts China Now In Deep-Space Club

By | December 17, 2007 | Satellite News Feed

China now has become a deep-space power, on the success of its lunar orbiter, Chinese President Hu Jintao said last week, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

This is but the first stage of the Chinese lunar program, according to Hu, speaking at a ceremony in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing to celebrate the successful lunar orbiter. (Please see Space & Missile Defense, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2007.)

China also has sent a taikonaut into space; orbited many satellites; and demonstrated that it can destroy or disable satellites and spacecraft of other nations. China proved that last capability in January by using a ground-based interceptor to obliterate one of its own aging weather satellites.

As well, the populous Asian nation has disabled a U.S. military satellite by "painting" it with a ground-based laser beam.

Hu asserted that China must make technological innovation and development a core goal if it is to narrow what he claims is a gap between China and other advanced nations.

The Chang’e 1lunar orbiter, launched in October and slipping into lunar orbit last month is an example of that advancement, according to Hu. The orbiter since has sent back photography of the lunar surface.

China is expected to send a taikonauts to the moon before the end of the next decade. Meanwhile, the United States is about to withdraw from space.

The space shuttle fleet will retire in 2010, and the next-generation U.S. spaceship, Orion-Ares, won’t have a manned flight into low Earth orbit until 2015. That means for half a decade, the United States — the nation that placed men on the moon and paid for much of the International Space Station — won’t be able to take even one astronaut to the space station, and instead will have to depend on Russian, allied or commercial spaceships for access to space.

As well, NASA isn’t expected to return astronauts to the moon until 2020, by which time travelers from China, India and/or Japan may already be there.

NASA officials repeated in a media briefing last week that they are shooting for a U.S. return to the moon by 2020.

That would be, in other words, 13 years. The first time the United States decided to go to the moon, in 1961, it took eight years until astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface in 1969.

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