How China joins the space race

China is a poor and progressive country. For a while, China had benefited from Soviet hardware and expertise, but in 1960 Mao accused the Soviet Union of backing up communism and ideological impurity. So China chose to go alone – right when the chaos and uncertainty of the Cultural Revolution were damaging all scientific and engineering activities. As a result, China launched its first guided missile in 1966, 20 years after the US and its first satellite in 1970, 23 years after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. Then there were major failures in the mid-1990s. In 1995, a Long March 2E rocket exploded shortly after launch, killing 6 people and injuring 23. A year later, a Long March 3B rocket exploded 22 seconds after its launch and crashed into a nearby village, with more than 200 deaths.

But years of patience, well-funded work paid off. China became the third country to launch people into orbit with its own means. Yang Liwei was dubbed one taikonaut – a The word pure English was invented to give Chinese astronauts a foothold on equal footing with American and Russian astronauts. Since then it is a steady ascending arc. At the end of 2013, 10 taikonauts orbited the Earth in five launches. From 2008 to 2012, China launched an average of 20 spacecraft each year. Most are doing mundane but essential work of bringing telecommunications satellites into orbit.

The Chinese are acutely aware of their place in history and how others see them. They also value ceremonial landmarks. So state media made headlines about the launch of Shenzhou 10 in 2013, 10 years after the first Chinese man entered orbit. The crew included the second female taikonaut, Wang Yaping. She streamed a physics lesson to the Chinese students, jokingly saying: “We haven’t seen any UFOs yet.” To PR for the space show, it competed with the efforts of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who played the guitar and sang David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” on the International Space Station. Shenzhou 10 also tested the spacecraft’s ability to mount with a precursor module of a full-size Chinese space station.

Wang Yaping has a gentle appearance, but the general tone of the Chinese taikonaut corps is serious and patriotic. At the Shenzhou 10 premiere, President Xi Jinping told the delegation, “You make all Chinese people feel proud. His duty is both glorious and sacred. Commander Xie Haisheng replied kindly: “We will definitely obey orders, obey orders, be stable and calm, work very carefully and successfully complete the Shenzhou 10 mission. ” Wang Yaping also sent the message, saying that during skydiving exercises with the Air Force, “All the girls we cried while singing an inspirational song ‘A Hero Never Dies’ on the way back. after the training. “

However, not all are smooth sailing. The Chang’e 3 moon probe was China’s first soft-landing ship on an extraterrestrial celestial body, but the Jade Rabbit explorer only traveled 100 meters through the Moon before it was immobilized due to mechanical damage. learn. The engineers had not foreseen the need for the harsh 14-day lunar nights, and they claimed that the problem was with electricity, not mechanics, with parts “frozen”. At the end of 2014, the rover resubmitted limited and still-available data, but only at a very low level.

Meanwhile, China has sent a rocket to the Moon and will bring back a Moon model by 2017. China is also planning a manned Moon missile that will be more powerful than the Saturn V. By 2020, China could launch it its own space station, just like the decommissioned International Space Station and crashed into the ocean. By then, it could also be in a position to land taikonauts on the Moon, half a century after Americans abandoned such efforts. The Chinese took advantage of not having to develop much space technology first. Russia ran out of money in the 1990s and sold its technology to the Chinese, who reverse-engineered and copied it. As a result, Shenzhou looks like Soyuz capsules and the Jade Rabbit looks like a Lunokhod roller coaster. But now the Chinese are innovating and moving ahead. Their Long March missiles were original and quickly eclipsed Russian ones.

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