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Space Science

China Plans Space Station By 2020 293

Posted by samzenpus
from the great-space-station dept.
RedEaredSlider writes "China unveiled plans for its own space station, to be completed by 2020, along with a cargo ship to ferry supplies to and from orbit. The fact that the country is proposing one is a sign of the Chinese government's ambitions in space. China is the third nation to launch its own manned rockets into space, sending its first astronaut into orbit in 2003 aboard the Shenzhou 5 rocket. Since then two other manned missions have been launched."
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China Plans Space Station By 2020

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  • Space Race v2.0 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PmanAce (1679902) on Wednesday April 27, 2011 @12:24PM (#35954936) Homepage
    Hopefully the emergence of the Chinese and others (India?) will fuel a new space race, with bigger ambitions than last time around. Mars maybe?
    • Re:Space Race v2.0 (Score:4, Interesting)

      by rufty_tufty (888596) on Wednesday April 27, 2011 @12:38PM (#35955104) Homepage

      I'd like it to have bigger ambitions.
      To make a profit from humans in space

      • Re:Space Race v2.0 (Score:4, Insightful)

        by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Wednesday April 27, 2011 @02:06PM (#35956194)
        How? There simply isn't that much to do up there. There are a few manufacturing advantages (You can grow absolutly perfect silicon crystals - might up the yield on semicondunctor manufacture), but not enough to justify the huge expense of getting things up and down. There are only enough idle rich to support a very small tourist industry. The only way you're going to see a profit on human space travel is some revolutionary new technology to bring the price down. That's why public and academic funding is so important. Do it for science!
        • by gnick (1211984)

          If fusion plants became the energy source of choice, a tritium mine may be financially solid. Of course, not many countries are currently powering their cities with large fusion plants as of yet. Still have some kinks to work out.

        • An American physicist named Gerard K. O'Neill [wikipedia.org] explored ways to boot strap an in-space economy and the notion is sometimes referred to as The High Frontier [wikipedia.org]. A permanent presence in space, and an in-space industrial economy would be useful for many things.
          • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmFREEBSDail.com minus bsd> on Thursday April 28, 2011 @02:54AM (#35960700) Homepage

            The problem with the plan outlined in The High Frontier is that it's "bootstrap" is essentially circular logic: "We need colonies in space to build the infrastructure in space to build colonies in space". He adds in "and build solar power satellites" in order to make it appear that his logic isn't circular - but any more-than-cursory examination of the economics involved shows how ludicrous that idea is. (Short version: it would be cheaper to burn the dollar bills directly for energy.)
             
            The grandparent has it right - there's nothing to do there and little advantage to be gained by going there.

    • A very slow race (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mangu (126918)

      China first launched an astronaut in orbit eight years ago.

      Seven years after the US launched its first astronaut in orbit, they had sent people to the moon.

      • by IrquiM (471313)
        The incentive and willingness to spend huge amount of money on sending people to the moon, "just to be the first" is gone, and it looks like "just because you can" isn't enough either. Current US hasn't even managed to do what their fathers did over 30 years ago yet - they're even flying with over 30 year old hardware designs. Comparing NASA of the 60s with current China is just stupid.
        • by gstoddart (321705)

          The incentive and willingness to spend huge amount of money on sending people to the moon, "just to be the first" is gone,

          I don't think people went to the moon "just to be the first".

          I seem to recall that one of the motivating factors of the space race was not falling behind the Soviets. Since rocket technology and missile technology are largely the same thing ... there was a perception that America could be losing a military advantage in not pursuing space technology.

          Since the end of the Cold War, it does

        • We can not compare them. SpaceX has put up a capsule and returned it with only 7 years worth of work. They will in the next year or so, put up a rocket that will be 2.5 x the size of what China has done for the last 45 years. China has said that they can not approach the costs that SpaceX has. Bigelow will have a space station started in 3 years.

          So, yeah, you are right. We should not compare CHina to America. It is not fair to China.
      • Perhaps they are waiting for us to finalize our designs for our Back to the Moon missions so that they can finally start building their ships. I doubt they want to replicate our Apollo Era technology at this point.

      • by Chicken_Kickers (1062164) on Wednesday April 27, 2011 @07:22PM (#35958996)

        True, the US sent men to the moon a few years after their first manned space flight. But, was it sustainable? Did the US followed through with a moon base and all that 2001 Space Odyssey dreams? Maybe the Chinese had studied the history of space exploration and decided not to repeat the US mistakes. Maybe they have a longer term and more sustainable plan for space exploration. You have to remember, the Chinese have more than 4000 years of advanced civilization behind them. This tends to make them more farsighted don't you think?

        • by Teancum (67324)

          The U.S. effort to go to the Moon was followed up by Skylab, a Shuttle program, and the construction of the International Space Station (of which clearly the American involvement was quite large). Arguably that aspect of manned spaceflight was sustainable and certainly has been maintained. Dozens of follow-up spacecraft designs to succeed the Shuttle program have also been worked on by NASA... and it has been political infighting that has mostly created the current situation where NASA really doesn't have

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by smelch (1988698)

      We can only hope that something like that will happen. To be honest, we need to start focusing on getting the technology to make using materials from other worlds feasible. With all of the focus on dwindling supplies of rare earth metals and energy sources and economic problems and population problems we should be devoting as much time and effort in to space as we can and pay any costs to get to that point. I'm generally a low taxes kind of guy, but I would definitely support a raise in taxes that was speci

    • by geegel (1587009)

      Space races bring some footprints and not much else. What I'd want to see is a killer app, some use of space that makes sense from a commercial standpoint. I know that not many agree with me, but when space becomes profitable we'll become a spacefaring race.

      • Communication, navigation, and weather satellites are all commercially viable (and pretty killer.) Space exploration is another pursuit entirely...doing something 'because it is there' to that magnitude is very killer.
      • by vlm (69642)

        What I'd want to see is a killer app, some use of space that makes sense from a commercial standpoint.

        Com sats, weather sats, and geolocation sats?

        I wonder how the complete GPS program costs compare to the sales tax income from all GPS unit sales. The govt Might be running a profit there...

        • That is only near-earth, unmanned space flight. What is the commercial motive for a manned mission to another planetary body (even if it is as close as the moon)?

        • How much did the GPS program cost? I haven't been able to find any figures. The European GPS system will cost roughly 7.5 billion EUR, so about 11 billion USD. Yikes, those are big numbers! I think it's reasonable to assume GPS was a lot more expensive, so far: they had to do way more R+D, the technology used was more expensive in the past, they launched more than twice as many satellites, etc. If we're using the expenses for Galileo as a lower bound, you'd end up with about 35 USD per US resident. Seems un

    • by elrous0 (869638) *

      Not likely. The rivalry between the U.S. and China is nothing compared to the rivalry between the U.S. and Soviet Union at the time of the first space race. And the original space race was only prompted by the U.S. realization that the USSR was WAY ahead of us in astronautics. Launching men into space and even a space station just shows that China is on par with the U.S. and Russia, not that it's way ahead. This is likely just another move by China to assert its position as a serious peer, not a move to sho

      • by mangu (126918)

        the original space race was only prompted by the U.S. realization that the USSR was WAY ahead of us in astronautics

        That was the perception at the time, but it was probably not correct. There was the missile gap [wikipedia.org] that turned out to be just a political ploy. Also, the US had plans to launch a satellite at least a year before the Soviets launched the first Sputnik, but president Eisenhower didn't approve it [wikipedia.org].

        • by Abstrackt (609015)

          the original space race was only prompted by the U.S. realization that the USSR was WAY ahead of us in astronautics

          Also, the US had plans to launch a satellite at least a year before the Soviets launched the first Sputnik, but president Eisenhower didn't approve it [wikipedia.org].

          People remember what you did a lot better than what you could have done. Based on the link you provided, I get the impression the Eisenhower administration didn't want to escalate the cold war by launching what could be interpreted as a military missile.

        • by elrous0 (869638) *

          If only "could have," "might have," and "should have" counted instead of "did."

        • What Wikipedia doesn't reveal is that Redstone was known to be unreliable at the time (the shift to the Mercury programme saw a huge number of changes to the Redstone rocket to improve reliability and safety). Any satellite shot using the pre-Mercury booster would have been a crap shoot with the big money on a failure.
    • Hopefully the emergence of the Chinese and others (India?) will fuel a new space race, with bigger ambitions than last time around. Mars maybe?

      God, I hope not. I hope we stay on the sidelines and watch the Chinese flush billions of dollars down the toilet to do what we've already done.

    • Yes, that's *exactly* what we need - another expensive and pointless race to prove who has the biggest penile substitute.

    • Instead of looking at it as a challenge to be there first, start bidding on components to build their space station. A good way to bring money back into our Western pockets, no? That's assuming they need our technology.

    • Given the overall Chinese Aviation Creativity, it might kind of cool to see Sky Lab 2.0
  • by paiute (550198) on Wednesday April 27, 2011 @12:27PM (#35954968)

    I bet the orbit will take an hour - so they'll be back around as soon as you are hungry again.

  • by damburger (981828) on Wednesday April 27, 2011 @12:35PM (#35955068)

    Not sure why every news source is banging on about the station being low mass; once the principle of on-orbit assembly is mastered the only real limits to mass are how many modules you choose to launch, and how much fuel you need for a reboost. Getting from 60-tonne station to 400-tonne station is a far smaller step than getting from nothing to a multi-modular station.

    The fact China isn't going to build a very large station may indicate firm intentions to go to the Moon. If they are just using this to practice techniques for longer range exploration, there isn't much point making it huge.

    • I didn't understand that about orbits, modules, or fuel, and I am ambivalent about the moon or mars, but I like -something- about your post.
    • The ISS loses 2km of altitude per month due to atmospheric drag. It needs periodic boosts to keep it in orbit (this used to be done by the shuttle). The rate of drag is related to the mass of the station as well as its cross sectional area. The lighter the station, the quicker its orbit will decay (consider a ping pong ball vs a golf ball. They're about the same size, but drag will affect a ping pong ball more) . On the plus side, however, it will require less propellant to boost it back into its prope
  • by pablo_max (626328) on Wednesday April 27, 2011 @12:37PM (#35955098)

    Just because China is planning to planning to build something does not mean they will. Remember we we planned to build that super mega particle smasher in Texas? I don't recall that plan working out.
    Remember when the US planned to have colonies on the moon by now?
    Remember when I planned to marry a super model when I was a teenager? I am sure you can guess how that worked out.

    That aside, I hope they do it. It seems the world will only move forward with competition from an "evil" empire.

    • by damburger (981828)

      This is very true, but doesn't actually apply here. This space station is part of Project 921, which China has been working on since 1992.

      The schedule has slipped by a year or two, but what they are doing now is pretty what they planned to be doing in the early 90s.

      The US on the other hand has gotten into the habit of switching programs every 18 months or so. This is unlikely to change with a 'new space race' because the Chinese threat to US space dominance is boiling-frog slow, and the US public are decide

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by vlm (69642)

        The US on the other hand has gotten into the habit of switching programs every 18 months or so. This is unlikely to change with a 'new space race' because the Chinese threat to US space dominance is boiling-frog slow, and the US public are decidedly lukewarm regarding such things these days - see the total non-response to Obama's "Sputnik Moment" comment.

        No problem, we'll buy our lead and melamine laced Chinese made space station from Walmart.

    • by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Wednesday April 27, 2011 @12:43PM (#35955162)

      Just because China is planning to planning to build something does not mean they will

      Sure, but China's track record on executing on promised mega-projects is pretty good.

      Men in orbit? Check.
      High-speed Rail? Check.
      Three-gorges dam? Check.
      Hangzhou Bay Bridge? Check.

      We could go on and on...

      Meanwhile, all the USA seems able to produce any more is Obama's birth certificate.

      • by damburger (981828)
        That last comment is not unrelated. I would be interested in seeing the amount of advertising money made by right-wing hacks stirring up the birther movement etc. to the annual budget of NASA.
        • by medcalf (68293)
          Speaking of non-sequiturs.... Does this mean we should resurrect the old arguments comparting the cost of Apollo to the amount of money spent on makeup in the same period?
          • There was a comparison that I read recently that I found quite sobering. The total number of man-hours spent creating Wikipedia is approximately the same as the amount spent in the US watching television advertising. In one weekend.
          • by mangu (126918)

            Does this mean we should resurrect the old arguments comparing the cost of Apollo to the amount of money spent on makeup in the same period?

            OK, if you want it, here it is: according to Wikipedia, the total cos of building, launching and operating the International Space Station for 30 years is US$160 billion, and the total turnover of the worldwide cosmetics industry was US$170 billion in 2006.

             

        • by geekoid (135745)

          I think the point of the last statement is that people are more concerned with stupid shit, following their tea party masters, and FUD then any real progress. People completely emotionally tied up into some idealogical belief and refusing to look at and actually facts or think reasonably about anything thats counter to the tight held ignorant crap.

          remember kids: If some counters you with actual facts and demands accountability in what you say, they are a no good liberal.

          The polarization in this country will

          • Would you consider it "stupid shit" if it were President Bush whose eligibility was in question?
            • by Binestar (28861)
              YES. The facts of this is that this information isn't new. The birth announcements have been reported on, the copy of the birth certificate was provided. The person in Hawaii who's job it is to keep track of the birth announcements said that she personally saw the original and in accordance to Hawaii LAW, she could say that she saw it and it proves he was born in hawaii, but she doesn't have the ability to give out copies or show it to anyone except Obama or Obama's appointed representative. This is deb
              • I had to produce a birth certificate for my job, why shouldn't the president? I don't really care about a file clerk in Hawaii. The fact that President Obama kept this secret for so long certainly made me suspicious that he had something to hide. Then there's the fact that a "Constitutional Law Professor" would to blatantly brush off the U.S. Constitution's requirement that the president be a natural born citizen.

                Anyways, as I understood it, the same questions existed regarding Mccain's citizenship s
    • by guruevi (827432)

      But China is not held back by politicians that only want to do good for THEIR voters or the people that they get bribed from. They have less red tape to go through when doing stuff - they just use the debt we own to improve their country and they do it well. They're basically the US right after the Depression, they get access to unlimited funds to build stuff which in turn generates jobs and a flourishing economy because the value of their country goes up.

  • 9 years to go from "we put a few guys in orbit" to "fully manned and fully operational space station" is a staggeringly optimistic schedule. If China is able to pull it off, I will tip my hat to them.

    I wonder if they'll also be just as fast in discovering that manned space stations are generally a waste of time and money?
    • by geekoid (135745)

      No it's not. If the China government says they want it, it is completely achievable. Now, you add elected officials, scientifically illiterate people making key the decisions, stupid libertarian think the private sector can do it, and people who seem to be general angry at all progress, and then no, 9 years is not possible.

    • by jgtg32a (1173373)
      NASA put a man on the moon 8 years after putting one in orbit.
      • But did they have a space station? In a lot of ways, having a permanent space station is a harder task that putting someone on the moon.
        • by gad_zuki! (70830)

          Skylab 1973. 4 years after the moon landing.

          I really dont think its a tougher task. Its just throwing junk into LEO and calling it a day. A flight to the moon is a whole different ballgame.

      • The question shouldn't be one of how quickly it was done, but rather how cost effectively was it done and how long was the technology viable for? The US has consistently thrown money at space projects that are short term, expensive jaunts and called them successes.
  • Chinese GDP (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Slur (61510) on Wednesday April 27, 2011 @12:39PM (#35955124) Homepage Journal

    Look for a video called "China's Ghost Towns" to see how China is inflating their GDP by building cities that no one can afford to live in. It's freaky to see all these empty supermalls and highrise apartment buildings. When China's bubble explodes it's going to be a whole new disaster for the world economy.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Bubble? do you know how China manages their money?

      Only in America can someone look at a country that is actually thinking forward and say it's a bubble.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The US has a lot of work to do its own economy, so this isn't meant to downplay anything about that. It's also not meant as anything negative about China--bubbles happen everywhere.

        Having said that...

        The idea of a China bubble isn't too far-fetched, and is on the radar of a lot of economists. It's not just about China either, but all of the emerging-economy nations that have seen recent rapid growth.

        E.g., http://www.economist.com/node/18560195

      • Geekoid, you are seriously ignorant and obstinate with regards to knowing what's brewing in China. Shanghai has such a nasty real estate bubble brewing, it makes ours in the US pale in comparison. It's large enough to throw the entire world into a great world-wide depression (yes, worse than it is now) via domino effect of defaulting debts. It was only a month ago that people are become more optimistic that it's manageable than back in August. But this situation is definitely worth watching closely.

        Just goo

      • by sdguero (1112795)
        Seeing first hand what happened in Thailand during the late 1990s after a brief economic boom, I understand what the original poster is saying. There are literally hundreds of rusting hulks structures just east of Bangkok, along an abandoned double decker highway project that has remained half finished for over a decade now. It was all abandoned to waste away after the currency scare in 1997 when financing went away. Things railroaded quickly and now it is too expensive to tear it down so these old rusting
  • For whatever reason, the Chinese may indeed commit the colossally stupid act of setting up a manned space station. It is a moronic waste of money, which presents competitors with an opportunity: set up a network of completely robotic space stations that will do vastly more at far lower cost and generate more advances in robotics. Let the Chinese put little red stars on their shirt collars so that mommy can see what good little boys they are. Nations that have already seen that it is a financial black hole t
    • by geekoid (135745)

      " Nations that have already seen that it is a financial black hole that produces practically nothing of value need not accompany them."

      no, short sighted politician, and ignorant SOB don't see any value.

      The Manned space program has paid for it's self many times over. It's a fantastic practical RnD resource. They have a unique need, private industry fills it, and then take what they learned to make other products they sell. They get taxed and the money goes around.

      god damn it, how stupid are people not to be

      • by Arlet (29997)

        The question is not if the manned space program has had benefits in other areas. That's quite obvious.

        The question is: could you have spend the same money on something else, and get an even better return on your investment ?

        For instance, we could have spend more on robotic missions, getting better robot technology as a result.

      • The Manned space program has paid for it's self many times over... This isn't wishful thinking, it's documented fact... can't think past 'it cost money' to actually look at the revenue is generates, the value to our future

        "Documented fact," eh? That should make it easier for you to prove it and not just insult people with empty platitudes. Show us credible numbers and lists of technologies that have, for example, paid for the cost of the ISS "many times over." They do not exist. It is a false claim. It i
    • by vlm (69642)

      financial black hole that produces practically nothing of value

      A manned station can be useful.

      On the other hand, what if you do the ISS thing and take plans for a very useful manned station, and cut cut cut cut budgets until the only thing left is the hotel load? That's how you end up with a "financial black hole that produces practically nothing of value".

    • by Wiarumas (919682)
      Just to name a few products that came out of space exploration related projects - most of which were to assist humans while in space: cat scans, microchips, cordless tools, ear thermometer, frozen food, insulation, invisible braces, memory foam, GPS, scratch resistant lenses, shoe insoles, smoke detectors, and water filters.
      • by Arlet (29997)

        I'm pretty sure all these products would have been invented/produced even without a manned space program, and on a lower budget.

  • Space travel - yet another thing we'll be outsourcing to China...
    • by damburger (981828)
      Why not? In six months, you will have completely outsourced it to Russia...
    • by c6gunner (950153)

      Space travel - yet another thing we'll be outsourcing to China...

      China has already admitted that they can't do it as cheaply as SpaceX. Now, it's possible that SpaceX is producing unrealistic cost estimates, but for the time being it looks as if private industry could at the very least compete with the Chinese space program, if not surpass them in cost-effectiveness. If that changes, yeah, we might have to outsource to them, but there's no reason to be such a pessimist yet.

  • well... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745)

    at lease someon is going. Good luck China.

    BTW, Manned Space Programs are what countries get for have appropriate eye on science and the longevity of a country.

    It's also what you loose when all focus is on money spent now and constantly cutting.

    But hey, let keep lowering taxes and butcher all our assets. It's the libertarian way...to 3rd world status.

  • The wiki page lists an eleven launch, partially completed program to a permanent station. Sounds a bit like Skylab or Mir.
  • This is good for China, but whats much, much more impressive is a private company has started making plans on putting a man on Mars within 10-20 years (SpaceX). Its one thing for a government to commit to space travel, but its amazing for a private company to do that! SpaceX is already do amazing things with their launch capabilities.
    • by damburger (981828)
      The difference is, China actually has the capability to do it. Musk only has one bit of technology, and the hope that the US gov. will buy it.
      • China doesn't, yet, right now things are so dicey with heir economy, as they are trying to slow it due to inflation. My bet still on Musk, it's not only about the U.S Government to do it.
  • They DO realize that really, to build a space station, it has to be in SPACE - you know, where people can see it?

    Not, for example, in a pool.

    I'm just sayin'.

The bogosity meter just pegged.

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