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China Space

China Completes Its First Manned Space Docking 130

Posted by timothy
from the rapid-progress dept.
This AP story, as carried by the Houston Chronicle, says that the Chinese Shenzhou 9 spacecraft (carrying a crew that includes the country's first female astronaut) has successfully docked with an orbiting module, a first for China's manned space program. However, manned mission or not, the actual docking was actually executed from below: as with previous docking maneuvers, "Monday's docking also was completed by remote control from a ground base in China. A manual docking, to carried out by one of the crew members, is scheduled for later in the mission. Two crew members plan to conduct medical tests and experiments inside the module, while the third will remain in the spacecraft."
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China Completes Its First Manned Space Docking

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  • Awww good on em (Score:2, Insightful)

    by spokenoise (2140056)
    Now everyone will want to do it
    • Everyone wants to have billions and trillions that they can spend spend spend, without having to work for it

      Every geek wants to have sexy gf with big boobs

      Every nation wants to be the King of the World

      But can anyone afford to do anything anytime anywhere?

      Of course, China wants to be many things

      It may even wants to be the first nation establishing a base on the moon

      But it doesn't mean China will do it the way other countries (USA and former USSR) had done - China may opt to do it a firm and careful step at a

  • by mister2au (1707664) on Monday June 18, 2012 @05:43AM (#40357547)

    Slow but steady progress since initiating this program in 1992.

    With a first Chinese moonwalk estimated for 2024 that is 32 years total (with already 50 years of rocket research in the world to leverage off) ... makes you understand just much the US threw at its lunar programme to manage going from the start of the Mercury program to moonwalk in less than 11 years

    • by EdgePenguin (2646733) on Monday June 18, 2012 @05:48AM (#40357569) Homepage

      Or, to put it another way, how little the Chinese are investing. The space program is clearly not viewed as a high economic priority in China. The period between their first manned flight and now is roughly the same as the period between the first US manned flight and first US lunar landing; and in that time period China has had an economy far in excess of that of the US in the 1960s. They have also had lower costs due to the fact that they don't have to develop all the technology from scratch. They could easily have done a repeat of Apollo on this time scale, but chose not to.

      • by Gordonjcp (186804) on Monday June 18, 2012 @06:06AM (#40357611) Homepage

        Maybe they just don't want to rush it and take chances. In the 1960s the US and the USSR were competing to be the first to space and the first to the moon. The Chinese are going to be the third country to reach the moon (second, for manned missions since the Russians didn't bother) whichever way you slice it.

        There's no point going at it in a hurry and risking the lives of astronauts any more than they have to. Back when the Apollo missions were flying, the US and the USSR had an attitude of "get someone up there and maybe back down if they survive, and get it done now". The Chinese don't need to do that.

        • by mister2au (1707664) on Monday June 18, 2012 @06:16AM (#40357629)

          Technically not third to reach the moon
          - Japan put up an orbiter (Hiten) in 1993
          - ESA put up SMART-1 in 2003
          - India crashed their Chandrayaan probe (deliberately an impact mission) a few years ago

          And even then, both India and the Europeans are targeting manned landings before China.

          Although even Iran has announced for 2025 so clearly some of these need to be taken with some skepticism

          • by abelb (1365345) on Monday June 18, 2012 @07:17AM (#40357805)
            Don't forget that China has successfully completed two orbital lunar missions with Chang'e 1 and 2.
          • by Xiaran (836924) on Monday June 18, 2012 @08:06AM (#40357963)
            Iran is going to go up there and knock over the American flag.
            • Iran is going to go up there and knock over the American flag.

              Heck, that could be done by a robotic mission. It wouldn't even be that hard (relatively speaking) to burn a American flag on the moon.
              What are you going to do about that , mr toughguy Great Satan ? !

              Obviously we need a crash moonbase program to base space rangers on the moon to oversee and preserve such great Human historical sites.

        • by Teancum (67324) <(robert_horning) (at) (netzero.net)> on Monday June 18, 2012 @08:02AM (#40357955) Homepage Journal

          My largest complaint about the Chinese space program is the lack of operational tempo. Simply put, they aren't really in the habit of sending stuff into space and they are waiting too long between flights if they want to gain institutional knowledge about how to perform tasks in space. The last previous flight for Chinese astronauts was in 2008, although there was an "unmanned" spaceflight last year which acted as a dress rehearsal for this flight.

          All this said, I will admit that this is a significant accomplishment and something which speaks volumes about the technical accomplishments of China. The organizations which have been able to achieve this milestone are rather small, and for manned spaceflight is only NASA, Roscosmos, and now CNSA (Chinese National Space Agency), with just JAXA, ESA, and SpaceX as the only other organizations to perform this task using unmanned spacecraft.

          Still, all China has done so far is more or less replicate Gemini 8, avoiding the problems that nearly killed Neil Armstrong and David Scott. They have a long way to go if they want to turn this into any sort of useful experience to get them anywhere else, but they can start to have their astronauts do stuff more elaborate than simply being potty-trained monkeys who know how to wave flags. A huge difference between Gemini 8 and Shenzhou 9 is that Armstrong and Scott were actually piloting their spacecraft where instead the pilots of the Shenzhou spacecraft are sitting at mission control.

          • by f3rret (1776822)

            A huge difference between Gemini 8 and Shenzhou 9 is that Armstrong and Scott were actually piloting their spacecraft where instead the pilots of the Shenzhou spacecraft are sitting at mission control.

            I am fairly certain that if remote control technology has been sophisticated enough at the time, then NASA would also have done it by remote control.

            • by Teancum (67324) <(robert_horning) (at) (netzero.net)> on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:01AM (#40358251) Homepage Journal

              A huge difference between Gemini 8 and Shenzhou 9 is that Armstrong and Scott were actually piloting their spacecraft where instead the pilots of the Shenzhou spacecraft are sitting at mission control.

              I am fairly certain that if remote control technology has been sophisticated enough at the time, then NASA would also have done it by remote control.

              Not really. This is basically a difference in attitude towards those who are inside of the spacecraft, where an American philosophy is that those inside of the spacecraft ought to be much more directly in charge of what is going on, while the Chinese/Soviet philosophy was one of paranoia that the spaceflight participants might do something politically embarrassing so that authority was taken away.

              The original plan for the Mercury spaceflights was to be largely automated, with the astronauts being largely "spam in a can" and really not doing anything other than being a passenger and enjoying the ride. Considering the Mercury astronauts were all test pilot instructors (qualified not just as test pilots but to teach people how to become those as well), there was a minor revolt within the astronaut corps that insisted some level of actual piloting should take place inside of the spacecraft, where key decisions about the progress of the spacecraft such as abort decisions and proceeding through various milestones rested upon the mission commander... in some cases with the mission commander alone.

              Note also that much of the early NASA technology for launching astronauts into space came from the ICBM missile development, where significant automation already took place. The first spaceflights for the Mercury program used Chimpanzees, who obviously weren't rated as pilots or expected to do much other than take in the ride.

              I'll note that the attitude of allowing manual control has made a difference in several missions and allowed a successful conclusion to those missions that otherwise might have gone badly. Gemini 8 was one of those situations BTW, where the astronauts weren't able to explain their situation to ground control due to a loss of telemetry and garbled communications until after they had finally resolved the situation. Another was the ability of the astronauts to rework Apollo 13 in order to get them to come home. I'm sure other situations could be brought up where real piloting skill was applied, including John Glenn's decision to not jettison his retro-rockets on the Friendship 7 flight. John Glenn also switched to a manual flight mode due to problems he noticed during the flight, not trusting the automated system that was in place.

            • Have you ever heard of 'The Right Stuff'?

              Pilot, not occupant
              Spacecraft, not capsule
              Window and Escape Hatch with explosive bolts, not 'spam in a can'
          • It's cultural. There is simply too much at stake, and the pilots (err...passengers) are too low-ranking to make such huge decisions. If there is an Apollo 13-like incident, then careers will crash and burn, there will be a huge investigation, and the big bosses will likely end up in prison for stealing funds from the operation. The astronauts are just placeholders.

            Anyone remember the names of China's first three astronauts? Me, either.

          • My largest complaint about the Chinese space program is the lack of operational tempo. Simply put, they aren't really in the habit of sending stuff into space and they are waiting too long between flights if they want to gain institutional knowledge about how to perform tasks in space.

            And what''s your standing to complain? Unless you're up there in their political elite, they aren't beholden to you in any way.

            Still, all China has done so far is more or less replicate Gemini 8, avoiding the problems

            • by Teancum (67324)

              My largest complaint about the Chinese space program is the lack of operational tempo. Simply put, they aren't really in the habit of sending stuff into space and they are waiting too long between flights if they want to gain institutional knowledge about how to perform tasks in space.

              And what''s your standing to complain? Unless you're up there in their political elite, they aren't beholden to you in any way.

              I didn't say that they owe me anything. I was merely implying that China doesn't appear to be interested in really establishing anything other than a flag waving presence in space and doesn't seem to want to learn how to do much once they get up there. People forget stuff over time and really complex things like going into space requires practice and experimentation.

              My point is that China is going to hit a brick wall technologically if they don't start to ramp up their flight rate and do something more th

      • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Monday June 18, 2012 @06:10AM (#40357617)

        "... economy far in excess... "

        is only a relative figure. Per capita (which along with total economy MUST be included), their economy was nowhere near the U.S. during that time, as measured in U.S. dollars. The total "GDP" (if there is such a think in a socialist country -- definitions must be clarified) might have been greater, but it was for a far larger population.

        The fact is that during most of that period, China could not even feed itself, "large" economy or not.

        • by k(wi)r(kipedia) (2648849) on Monday June 18, 2012 @06:35AM (#40357677)
          I think the total size of the economy is more important in attempting to measure a country's ability to maintain a national space program. Otherwise some small but rich European or oil-producing country would have also launched humans into space a long time ago. The Soviet Union was clearly poorer than the US in per capita terms, but managed to beat the US to several early space milestones.
          • by Teancum (67324) <(robert_horning) (at) (netzero.net)> on Monday June 18, 2012 @08:14AM (#40357999) Homepage Journal

            I think the total size of the economy is more important in attempting to measure a country's ability to maintain a national space program. Otherwise some small but rich European or oil-producing country would have also launched humans into space a long time ago. The Soviet Union was clearly poorer than the US in per capita terms, but managed to beat the US to several early space milestones.

            I suppose that is where these crazy nerds [copenhagen...bitals.com] come along and try to prove your notion could work all along. I'll admit their goal is more to duplicate Alan Shepard's flight rather than John Glenn's, but it is none the less showing that more countries and people are coming together and trying to get into space.

            Russia might get a little nervous if Denmark starts to attempt orbital spaceflight though. These guys are using a launch site in the Baltic Sea, and extra nerd points are earned because the "ground crew" for the launch site works out of a submarine on launch day.

            • Maybe their attempts at building a rocket-powered human canonball are part of the trend toward the democratization of technology, just as the printing press and later the Web enabled even "commoners" to publish.
        • by khallow (566160)

          Per capita (which along with total economy MUST be included)

          Well, we can't keep you from inserting it into the discussion, but it's not significant for large public projects like those of this story.

          The fact is that during most of that period, China could not even feed itself, "large" economy or not.

          It hasn't been starving in the past decade which is the period under consideration.

          • "Well, we can't keep you from inserting it into the discussion..."

            The error was due to my mis-reading of what the commenter was saying. I thought he was comparing the Chinese economy of the 60s to the US economy of the 60s. But I see now that is not what he meant.

            Nevertheless, you could have corrected me without being snide about it.

            • by khallow (566160)

              The error was due to my mis-reading of what the commenter was saying. I thought he was comparing the Chinese economy of the 60s to the US economy of the 60s. But I see now that is not what he meant.

              While China had a starvation problem in the 60s, it still remains that per capita GDP isn't relevant for large societal projects.

              Nevertheless, you could have corrected me without being snide about it.

              No worries. I was just paying in kind.

        • by f3rret (1776822) on Monday June 18, 2012 @08:18AM (#40358027)

          (if there is such a think in a socialist country -- definitions must be clarified)

          I live in a socialist country and I think we have a GDP here.

        • by jpapon (1877296)

          The total "GDP" (if there is such a think in a socialist country -- definitions must be clarified)

          Haha, you must be a Foxnews viewer (or maybe even editor)? Why would a socialist country not have a GDP??? Do they not produce things of value? Do they not trade with other countries?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        "Or, to put it another way, how little the Chinese are investing. The space program is clearly not viewed as a high economic priority in China."

        It's just to demonstrate their capability. Now the US will outsource their spaceflights to them too, just like all the rest already.

      • by TapeCutter (624760) on Monday June 18, 2012 @06:51AM (#40357725) Journal
        "They're starving back in China, so finish what you got." is a line from a John Lennon song, when I was a kid that's what mother's told their children when trying to persuade them to eat thier veggies. There were several famines due to Mao's "great leap" the worst of which was without doubt the worst in the 20th century (and perhaps of all time). I was too young to recall that one but I do recall the one in 1969 (the same year Armstrong set foot on the moon).

        It's said (by who I don't recall) that China has dragged more people out of poverty in the last 4 decades than the rest of the world combined by simply raising the standard of living for their own people. Having wittnessed (from afar) the scale of the change since the gang of four were booted out in the 70's, I'm inclined to believe that claim.

        Que paranoid rants about governments from 20-somethings with cheeto filled stomachs, in...3...2....1
        • by AmiMoJo (196126) <.ten.3dlrow. .ta. .ojom.> on Monday June 18, 2012 @07:40AM (#40357859) Homepage

          People complain about the UK giving aid to India which has its own space programme while millions live in terrible poverty, but the simple fact is they need one. Modern technology requires satellites, advanced materials and cutting edge research. They need it to bring the economies up to western levels and lift everyone out of poverty at once, rather than fire fighting individual disasters.

          It does suck that money spent putting a man in orbit is money that can't be spent educating poor kids, but you have to look at it as the individual need vs. the greater good and having a mix of both.

        • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:34AM (#40358537)

          "They're starving back in China, so finish what you got." is a line from a John Lennon song, when I was a kid that's what mother's told their children when trying to persuade them to eat thier veggies.

          Funny thing is that I saw an interview not long ago with a Chinese writer who said that when he was growing up in the 50's and 60's, the Chinese were told the same thing about the U.S. They were shown Depression-era footage of soup kitchen lines and told that was typical of life in the U.S. They would even encourage schoolchildren to give to charity to help out the starving Americans.

          • by poity (465672)

            They would even encourage schoolchildren to give to charity to help out the starving Americans.

            I wonder where that money actually went

          • Soviet books for children had all the same stuff.

            More recently, in a twist of irony, some Ukrainian guys have taken photos from the Great Depression, and presented them as photographic evidence of the horrors of Holodomor. Go figure...

        • When I was a child, my mother said to me, "Clean the plate, because children are starving in China." So I would clean the plate, four, five, six times a day. Because somehow I felt that that would keep the children from starving in China.

          But I was wrong. They kept starving. And I got fat.

          So I would like to say to every one of you who is either skinny--or in some other way normal--When you walk out on the street, and you see a fat person, Do not scoff at that fat person. Oh no!

          Take off your hat. Hold it ov

      • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:29AM (#40358493)

        The space program is clearly not viewed as a high economic priority in China.

        That's because China isn't in a space race with anyone. This is just their way of saying "We've arrived." There is no particular hurry and no pissing contest to win here, especially with the U.S. bowing out of the whole manned spaceflight game.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Wow. You just don't quite grasp this, do you.

        China can put a large object into orbit, keep it there for as long as they want, remotely control it to do whatever they want, send people up to service it and bring them back down alive.

        Oh, and China is a Thermo-nuke power.

        Do you get it now?

  • There, I fixed that for /.

  • by yotto (590067) on Monday June 18, 2012 @06:27AM (#40357665) Homepage

    ...carrying a crew that includes the country's first female astronaut... A manual docking, to carried out by one of the crew members, is scheduled... Two crew members plan to conduct medical tests and experiments...

    ...giggity.

  • The more people working on manned space flight, the more likely we'll solve the problems and make interplanetary and even interstellar travel a realistic possibility. I'm all for this. Having more groups with space capacity also means more chances of helping each other in case of emergencies. Plus to be selfish it's more likely I might get to have a go sometime in the next few decades :-)

    Perhaps there's a split between engineering fields and pure science fields? In pure science, everybody seems really happy

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Because science is often done and shared among scientists, often relatively small scale, often inconsequential to international power hierarchies.

      Space is nationalist because of the status implied, the technology implied which has direct military corollaries and extensions. People doing materials research for anti-radar and other stealth technologies don't tell the world either, are you as surprised by that?

  • It is interesting the Chinese have managed this, though I am not sure how useful this will be. It might have been better to work together with the other parties on the international space station. I was actually suprised that it has taken so long to get the first female into space as China has a rather 50/50 division of the sexes in the engineering field. As a matter of fact, I work in a institute that is part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and I think that in my office there are more women than men as
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Here's a link to a news article showing them three waving from the Tiangong-1 spacelab:

    http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/special/shenzhou9/index.htm [xinhuanet.com]

    (a bit surprised the Slashdot article was refering to a Houston newspaper not Xinhua net).
  • We should compliment them and applaud their achievement, I'm guessing...the blurb is light on factual details. Look, we're all nation states now, but it's likely your antecedents and theirs will intermingle at some point (if it hasn't happened already.) Mandarin is a fine ad hoc, potentially de facto language. So either we'll look back on this as an achievement of humanity, or possibly look back on it as a bag of soylent green. Do corporations really merit person-hood? I mean, most of our robots are w
  • American astronauts wouldn't put up with being spam in a can [wikipedia.org] while everything was controlled from the ground.

Computers are unreliable, but humans are even more unreliable. Any system which depends on human reliability is unreliable. -- Gilb

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