new space race?


With the successful launch of its second manned spacecraft, Shenzhou VI, China has shown the world that it is moving confidently towards the status of a global leader, one among eight or 10 — or even two or three — world powers that will be at the top in the next few years.

China needed the second successful launch to vindicate its space program. Since 1996, it has launched a total of 46 unmanned craft, including five this year. All of them were put into orbit by the Chinese Long March rocket. The maiden mission by Col. Yang Liwei on Oct. 15, 2003, meant China joined the prestigious club of nations able to send a man into space, joining Russia and the United States. Also important is that Beijing stuck to its launching schedule for the second vehicle with two cosmonauts aboard.

Beijing’s space plans are an established reality now, even if they may occasionally suffer setbacks and delays, as is the case with other countries. These plans include a space walk in 2006, a family of new carrier rockets, including one capable of putting into orbit a research station weighing 20 tons, an unmanned craft to be sent around the Moon in 2007, a lunar landing in 2012, and the return to Earth of another lunar vehicle with soil samples in 2017.

more form UPI here.