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China Space

China: The Next Space Superpower 250

Posted by samzenpus
from the great-space-wall dept.
the_newsbeagle writes "'As 2014 dawns, China has the most active and ambitious space program in the world,' says this article. While it's true that the Chinese space agency is just now reaching milestones that the U.S. and Russia reached 40 years ago (its first lunar rover landed in December), the Chinese government's strong support for space exploration means that it's catching up fast. On the agenda for the next decade: A space station to rival the ISS, a new spaceport, new heavy-lift rockets, a global satellite navigation system to rival GPS, and China's first space science satellites."
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China: The Next Space Superpower

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  • Firefly.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by xtal (49134) on Friday January 03, 2014 @09:13AM (#45855463)

    Didn't everyone speak Chinese? :)

    • Zhèngquè
    • Sorta... sometimes they'd toss in Chinese phrases, have ideograms on some of the crates and boxes, and suchlike, but just enough to add a hint of backstory - that is, that the Chinese and indeterminate-but-we-think-Americans worked together to evacuate their populations off the original dying Earth. Only problem is, the utter deficit of Chinese/Asian folks on the show led one to believe that somehow the language made it there, but the Chinese didn't.

      • by Teancum (67324)

        Sorta... sometimes they'd toss in Chinese phrases, have ideograms on some of the crates and boxes, and suchlike, but just enough to add a hint of backstory - that is, that the Chinese and indeterminate-but-we-think-Americans worked together to evacuate their populations off the original dying Earth. Only problem is, the utter deficit of Chinese/Asian folks on the show led one to believe that somehow the language made it there, but the Chinese didn't.

        As a fan, I sort of presumed that the Firefly universe was rather vast, and that Mal and his crew mainly cruised around the parts that were descendents of the Anglosphere of peoples (mainly North America, but also could include Australian & the UK/Europe to some extent). My understand was that there was a whole other part of the collection of star systems of the Alliance which were descended from the Chinese as well, but sort of had their own planets.

        It is hard to tell as it was only one half of a seas

  • Well ... That does sound like a world dominance agenda. International trade is already at the mercy of China in some ways. Space exploration just adds to this.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Nope, just laziness and complacency from the rest of the world.

  • Germany (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 03, 2014 @09:24AM (#45855537)

    Unlike the USSR and America, China has not had the benefit of of German rocket scientists to develop and run their space programme.

    They may have a few stolen blue prints, and without doubt the calculations and knowledge that the USSR still knows and America is fast forgetting, but they have also walked a long distance on their own feet, and they have done this in quite a short time.

    Sure, you Americans can trumpet "Pppthhhffff the Moon, been there, done that" but I do need to ask: When China and India have bases on the moon and men on Mars. More importantly, when you as a nation have lost the ability to launch your own rockets, and you can only rent payload from communist states -

    Whatever did happen to your once great ambitions?
    Have you, America as a nation, let your hunger for war and hegemony override your once great ideals for the betterment of mankind?

    Just where did you go wrong?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      American Idol, NFL, NBA, etc.. When we decided it was more fun to watch others than to do it ourselves. Lazy fuckers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by peragrin (659227)

      Nope the USA let capitalism get in the way. unrestricted capitalism. Just look at health insurance. it isn't based on good facts, but on the companies we work for providing information.

      besides lastly the USA is doing something else. trying to commercialize space travel. to push the cost of launching onto people who have an interest in lowering said costs greatly.

      Not only that but the USA also realizes that space is a pain in the ass. The few resources present are useful but hardly justify the short te

      • Nope the USA let capitalism get in the way..

        ...and we're such utter assholes for doing it, too. [spacex.com] /sarcasm

    • Re:Germany (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 03, 2014 @10:39AM (#45856069)

      Just where did you go wrong?

      The answer is easy. They went wrong just after WW2 when the US decided that they didn't need to transition to a peacetime economy. The whole military industrial complex is a result of that thinking. Mind you, the US military resources are many times more than needed to defend the country. Eisenhower was the first to recognise the dangers of the military industrial complex over 6 decades ago, and it seems nobody listened. The US is a country perpetually at war, when there isn't one they create one, either outside their borders or inside. Gotta continue to feed those "defense" consultant companies.

      Everything else is window dressing. The patriotism, the american exceptionalism, the american dream all vaporware. The military has ruled the US since the end of WW2. And it continues to do so.

    • Re:Germany (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Friday January 03, 2014 @10:46AM (#45856143)

      but they have also walked a long distance on their own feet, and they have done this in quite a short time.

      Short time? It's taken them 43 years to go from first satellite launched to a lunar lander. Which is about 35 years more than either the US or USSR took to do the same thing. Hell, the US managed a MARS rover in only 36 years, much less a Lunar rover.

      I'm not trying to denigrate the Chinese effort. It's making steady progress in a difficult field. But it's NOT making this progress in "quite a short time"....

      • by pooh666 (624584)
        Indeed, I am making remarkable progress in electronics using my Arduino :) Been there done that, matters a lot. I am looking fwd to the extra will this will provide EU and US both public and private. God knows we could use another space race and some actual good old fashion nationalism.. Otherwise we loose, we loose just on pure numbers and corp greed.
    • Re:Germany (Score:5, Interesting)

      by demachina (71715) on Friday January 03, 2014 @01:16PM (#45857961)

      The father of the Chinese space program was one of the founders of JPL, Jet Propulsion == rockets. The U.S. government hounded him so much for being Chinese, and possibly a spy, he eventually returned home to China and built a space program there.

      The rest of your thesis is deeply flawed and NOT insightful. The U.S. space program is alive and well at JPL, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Orbital Sciences and a number of other private companies.

      The only thing that went wrong was letting a series of U.S. Presidents, Congress and NASA completely screw it up for a few decades. Space programs need to be run by visionaries with a plan, laser focus, sufficient resources and the capacity to stick with it even when its hard, so they acheive their goals. Von Braun was the visionary who made Apollo happen. Musk is the most likely visionary to get the U.S. to Mars first.

      The space program as run by the U.S. government and NASA is doomed, if for no other reason than they completely change the strategy every 4 to 8 years, and their strategic decisions are based on how many jobs will be created in the districts of powerful Congressmen, not sound or rational engineering or whether a project is worth doing. As a result NASA seldom ever finishes anything (outside of JPL and observatories).

      NASA is also never held accountable for failure to finish anything, partially because politcians always cancel the programs half way through right before they actually have to build and do something. NASA's staff need to propose projects that are well engineered and worth doing, tell Congress to fund them at a sufficient and sustained level to finish them, and if Congress and President wont they need to threaten to mass resign. If NASA can't do programs like that they should all mass resign, shutter the failed parts of the organization and put the money directly in to places like SpaceX and Orbital Sciences.

      • by HiThere (15173)

        Getting there first isn't the task. Getting there survibably is the task. (Fortunately, I believe that Musk understands this...I'm not sure he understands just how much of a problem a recycling closed environment is.)

        No, the US space program is not well. It's been severly ill, and has suffered extensive memory and capabilites loss. SpaceX, etc. are trying to re-invent many techniques that were previously solved problems. They may come up with better solutions, but if they do it will because they HAD to

    • by tomhath (637240)

      More importantly, when you as a nation have lost the ability to launch your own rockets, and you can only rent payload from communist states -

      Take a look here [wikipedia.org] and try to count how many of the little flags represent the United States.

      As far as scientific missions...What about the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter [universetoday.com] and Mars Rovers [nasa.gov]? Don't they count?

    • Unlike the USSR and America, China has not had the benefit of of German rocket scientists to develop and run their space programme.

      No they had the Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance [wikipedia.org] through which the USSR gave China several R-2 [wikipedia.org] rockets which were improved versions of the R-1 (the soviet copy of the V-2). They also provided the blueprints, training to Chinese engineers for almost a decade.

      Since the colapse of the USSR China continued to recieve assistance from Russia. Both in the form of training by sending Chinese cosmonauts to Star City, and technology transfer. For example, the first Chinese spacewalk

    • Have you, America as a nation, let your hunger for war and hegemony override your once great ideals for the betterment of mankind?

      No, but our cronies find it a far faster return on investment to manufacture consent for war through scaremongering. [youtube.com] Don't forget, we went to space in a race to outdo other nations first. We're still dominant in that regard. [youtube.com] I do seriously wish Europe, Asia and Indonesia the best of luck. We're all in this together. Here in Houston astronauts from all over the world train for EVA and re-entry. Off the coast of Florida they train for life in space habitats under the water in SEATEST. [youtube.com] In Canada they lear

  • A totalitarian regime would have an easier time developing manned spaced flights and perhaps colonies off the blue marble.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      A totalitarian regime would have an easier time developing manned spaced flights and perhaps colonies off the blue marble.

      You do realize that the US is a totalitarian regime, I hope? In a capitalist system, the totalitarian dictators are the banks.

      The banks may not kill and torture you physically, but they'll take all your possessions and leave you destitute -- certainly a form of torture. And if you understand Fractional Reserve Banking, you already know that they operate everyone in society as labor sla

    • by Megane (129182)
      Yep, and it really worked great for the Russians! You can't point a telescope anywhere in the sky these days without spotting a Russian space colony!
  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Friday January 03, 2014 @09:30AM (#45855593)

    Until someone blows up a satellite, there's no "power" in space. You can launch from essentially anywhere, there's no way to monopolize the field.

  • That time traveler in the documentary "Looper" was right .. I should learn Chinese.

    • They said the same 15 years ago about learning Japanese. My guess? We'll stick with English. Chinese apparently is a very difficult language to learn to speak and write (Japanese writing is hard but learning to speak it is relatively easy). In contrast, English is easy to pick up, and already very widely spoken by non-native speakers.
      • by HiThere (15173)

        There *is* a dialect of English that's easy for foreigners to learn. It's a development of Pidgin (i.e., business) English. To most US people it would be a foreign language. OTOH, a decade ago it was reported to be the fastest growing dialect of English, accounting for most of it's growth worldwide. (Was the report correct? Is it still? I don't know...and I'm not asserting either.)

  • by RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Friday January 03, 2014 @09:40AM (#45855645)

    We're building the world's largest bureaucracy and collection of Ship B people.

  • by Maquis196 (535256) on Friday January 03, 2014 @09:49AM (#45855703)

    Nothing seems to get goverments spending money on space like any kind of race. Just a shame China don't just say "Mars would look great in China Red", that would soon get the budgets for NASA and to a smaller extent ESA raised a bit.

    Rather co-operation on this, I know there is some. A Chinese moon base? Like America would let that stand!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rmdingler (1955220)
      Indeed.

      Competition amongst earth's nation-states will have to do as motivation until cooperation is plausible.

      Hopefully we don't have to wait for that until we have a common off-planet enemy.

    • A Chinese moon base? Like America would let that stand!

      What are they going to do, nuke it?

      • by rtaylor (70602)

        If China builds a moon base with the primary purpose of mining rare-earth metals; it will be defended.

  • nothing new here (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nimbius (983462) on Friday January 03, 2014 @09:52AM (#45855725) Homepage

    China's space program differs from those of other nations in part because of the nation's political structure: A single-party government with a bevy of strong state-owned enterprises can get a lot done.

    if we're talking 'superpowers' then no its not. Russia, sent the first man into orbit and the first robot to the moon through state owned enterprise.

    the United States operates in much the same way. lockheed martin and northrup grumman would cease to exist if not for US taxpayer subsidy in the pursuit of our space program. their product is defined largely by US policy, and their sales controlled by it as well. theyre 'free enterprise' only in so far as it privatizes its profits.

  • Yeah (Score:2, Funny)

    by aliquis (678370)

    ... because what the world is ANOTHER FREAKING SET OF NAVIGATIONAL SATELLITES!

    I'll launch my own too, can't trust any government. Maybe we should found a set for each of us together through Kickstarter?

    More junk in the nearby space place!

  • by tgd (2822) on Friday January 03, 2014 @10:01AM (#45855777)

    And pass both the US and Russia quickly.

    Why? Technology is 40 years newer. Materials science has changed, automation, manufacturing techniques and a slew of other core technologies important for space flight have changed as much in the last 40 years as computing technology has. They're going to be able to do more with less the same as other up-starts like SpaceX can do -- but they're going to invest national levels of resources into it, with SpaceX levels of innovation and dramatically less of a "defense contractor welfare" bloat that drags down NASA.

    And good for them. For the sake of every living thing that's fought entropy for the last three billion years on Earth, it doesn't matter who is working towards getting life off this rock, it just matters that someone is.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      And pass both the US and Russia quickly.

      And yet they're taking decades for milestones that both the USA and Russia accomplished in years.

      • They don't seem to be stopping after a few PR stunts.
        Not waging proxy wars all over the place does give them the resources to keep going, and going, and...

        • They don't seem to be stopping after a few PR stunts.

          Neither did we. Or do you count the Mars Rovers as "PR stunts"? Note that we put the Mars rovers down on Mars 36 years after our first satellite launch. Which is seven years less time than China took from first satellite to lunar rover.

          Not waging proxy wars all over the place does give them the resources to keep going, and going, and...

          We spent more on Afghanistan & Iraq in the last ten years than we did on NASA. And we still managed the latest

    • by akirapill (1137883) on Friday January 03, 2014 @10:59AM (#45856289)

      dramatically less of a "defense contractor welfare" bloat that drags down NASA.

      Genuinely curious why you think this? It's been my understanding that there are strong ties between the government and the defense contractors, and the defense industry there is fairly shrouded in secrecy, making corruption easy to pull off. Do you think the Chinese government is more capable of taking an 'agile' approach to a space program than the US?

      • by tgd (2822)

        Genuinely curious why you think this? It's been my understanding that there are strong ties between the government and the defense contractors, and the defense industry there is fairly shrouded in secrecy, making corruption easy to pull off. Do you think the Chinese government is more capable of taking an 'agile' approach to a space program than the US?

        Corruption in China tends to be far and away an issue with regional and local programs, and lately there's been a serious crackdown on it. But mostly, they lack an entity like Congress that sets budgets and buys/sells votes to get projects broken up and put into lots of different districts. A big part of why SpaceX is so efficient is that everything is made in the same factory... not 50 different companies in 300 locations. Something needs to get done, it gets done. I'm not passing judgment on that, good or

        • Thanks, this makes a lot of sense wrt to congressional pork. It may take $1m to bribe an politician, but $1b if you have to bribe their constituency as well.
        • by HiThere (15173)

          There's a lot of good in things like SpaceX, but don't be deceived. Corporations also have failure modes, and some of them are pretty bad. One that often happens with technical companies is, the first generation of management are technical visionaries, the second generation are competent engineers, the thrid generation are bookkeepers. There usually isn't a fourth generation. (OTOH, note that this is just a "usually". IBM is a good counterexample. But then HP is an excellent example.)

  • from the article (Score:5, Insightful)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Friday January 03, 2014 @10:14AM (#45855843) Journal

    TFA says it perfectly: "...Johnson-Freese put it more bluntly: âoeIn terms of technology, are the Chinese at a peer level or more advanced than us? No, absolutely not. What they have that we donâ(TM)t is political will.â"

    Simply, Western governments have decided that space is no longer important. Certainly, not more important than handing out subsidies to industries, banks, and the underclass of easily-bought voters.

    • by Alomex (148003)

      Simply, Western governments have decided that space is no longer important. Certainly, not more important than handing out subsidies to industries, banks, and the underclass of easily-bought voters.

      Except that the biggest recipients of government largesse are Red States (look it up). So much for your "easily-bought" assumptiony.

      I also have the expectation of the government spending my tax dollars in things that benefit the general population instead of tax breaks to Mitt Romney so he can stash his $100 million retirement fund in a tax heaven in the Bahamas (again look it up).

    • by Drethon (1445051)
      The Apollo program is certainly not at a peer level or more advanced than our current capabilities. I don't think the technical level is going to be the major issue.
    • That is too bad because a space race is the only thing at this point that can pull the US out of this downward spiral where all resources are being allocated for financial services instead of actual investment in infrastructure and new technology. I mean looking back at history, the reason that technology progressed so rapidly in the 50's and 60's was because of the space race. In fact NASA and the DOD were buying 90% of all transistors made from that time period.
      • by HiThere (15173)

        I'll accept that for the 1960's, but not for the 1950's. During the 1950's the US just about ignored space. That's why we were so surprised when the 1950's ended with Sputnik. (The Russians hadn't been keeping it secret...they'd just been ignored.) For the 1950's you need to find some other mechanism.

        P.S.: Spending for political spectaculars doesn't do that much to advance Science and Engineering, even when they are the purported beneficiaries. I think Kennedy actually had a vision of developing space

  • They've got something on the moon and can get people into orbit this year. The US is years away from being able to put anyone in orbit without buying a ticket on a Russian rocket.
  • The US can still beat them in Eve Online, can't we?

    How many times did I hear from tech pundits that the New Virtual Economy made the brick and mortar world less important? Isn't this the same?

    Oh wait. There was that little thing called the dot com crash. Guess the real world capabilities still matter.

    No big deal. Guess I'll just get a beer and go back to playing Kerbal Space Program, then. It's what made America great. ;)

  • The US banned NASA from cooperating with Chinese space program, especially the ISS, due to China's tendency to steal technology. Much space technology has military applications. There was an embarassing incident this year when Chinese scientists were temprarily banned from a US exoplanet conference because NASA was involved.
    But its time to do joint government science projects now. Two groups together can accomplish more together than separately.
  • I've seen the thousands of people used to monitor space launches run by government programs. Like all government programs, they become public works projects. My son works for SpaceX in Torrance California. Their last successful launch of the Falcon 9 had 39 guys monitoring the launch. 39! I am doubtful China can match SpaceX. I can't wait till the manned Dragon capsule launch.I hope SpaceX eats everybody else's lunch. I confident they will too. :-)

  • Not all it seems (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 03, 2014 @12:14PM (#45857229)

    To take an opposing view to 99% of the posts here, China is not as big and scary as it seemed to be. Remember, at the end of the 80's early 90's everyone thought Japan was going to overtake the US, and look where they are now; they haven't recovered yet from their market collapse 20 years ago.

    China is in a similar crisis; the Party is good at hiding it but when you look at the signs they are there. Unemployment is rising in China. Profits are dwindling. Layoffs are occasionally happening. None of this should happen in a so called "Communist" state. This is mostly due to the fact that their middle class is getting more wealthy and demanding better rates and better living conditions while at the same time most of what built the Chinese economic model was cheap labor. Most of the cheap labor demand is moving to Southeast Asia and away from China as China is actually getting too expensive. I know several companies that have brought manufacturing back to the US and Mexico because it's cheaper, higher quality, and North America is easier to work with than China.

    Why do I say that? Because an active and aggressive space program requires a robust and sturdy economy. The first steps in a space program are a huge money pit to get going, and China's economy is starting to show the cracks in their model. They will struggle to maintain this when other priorities take shape, such as dumping more funding into the economy to maintain employment or shoring up their banks to maintain the shrinking credit market there.

    Meanwhile, the US's economy is not built on government agencies like NASA, it's built on entrepreneurship and private enterprise. The private sector historically has been more efficient than the government in almost every respect. The last 50+ years NASA poured money down the drain to get over the initial technical hurdles to get into space, but now that technology is robust. The next step into massive space exploration is not in building the next super advanced rocket that costs billions, which is what NASA is good at, it's in building a cheap reusable rocket that is cheap so we can increase the number of launches by orders of magnitude, historically that's what private enterprise is good at.

    I mean, at this stage in space exploration, what's better? An ultra-advanced rocket that costs $100M to launch so you get 10 launches for $1B, or a cheap rocket that costs $1M to launch so you get 1,000 launches for the same money? Doing things like building a space base, a moon base, sending a mission to Mars, etc., are all technically feasible propositions, but they are not economically feasible. The next major hurdle is to make them economically feasible so we can do these things.

    That's the transition going on right now in the US economy. NASA is evolving into a guiding force for the several private enterprises that are starting to come online, and the private enterprises are learning how to make launches cheap. China is still trying to get over the technical hurdles and the science stuff first. So right now it may look like China is ahead. In 10/15/20 years, it'll look like a vastly different story.

    • by Teancum (67324)

      The one thing that I use to show how the Chinese Space Agency is hardly something to be worried about is simply their tempo of operation. China may be doing the sort of flags & footprints kind of missions where they do things for political purposes, but they are not really building up any sort of significant experience with their manned spaceflight program in particular. The time between flights is longer than almost any nation which has a manned spaceflight program, and they simply don't have the exp

    • I mean, at this stage in space exploration, what's better? An ultra-advanced rocket that costs $100M to launch so you get 10 launches for $1B, or a cheap rocket that costs $1M to launch so you get 1,000 launches for the same money?

      A rocket that has a reasonably low price per kg launched, combined with flexibility, and with the ability to launch payload sufficiently heavy to be relevant (for many classes of payload, being able to launch a heavier spacecraft invokes the all-important economies of scale, and we're just not at the phase of building geostationary satellites out of cubesats quite yet).

  • Not that we need another space race but it's tragic that Americans don't even notice that it's something we no longer do.

Today's scientific question is: What in the world is electricity? And where does it go after it leaves the toaster? -- Dave Barry, "What is Electricity?"

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