September 2011

China Takes Up Scepter Of Manned Space Flight

China's space program is blossoming just as Russia's wilts and the Unites States abandons their own.

With today's launch of China's Tiangong 1 ("Heavenly Palace") unmanned spacecraft, China places another arrow in its quiver of global competition. The Chinese government has been aggressively pursuing a number of high-profile national initiatives, including a network of high-speed rail, greatly increased global presence in the solar energy market, and a plan to build their own space station. The Tiangong 1 is the first in a several stage process that will ultimately leave China with a fully functioning, and solely supported space station to rival the now nearly a decade old international space station run jointly by the U.S., Russia, and several other countries. This move comes at a time when the U.S. has closed its publicly funded manned-space travel program with NASA, moving more towards a privatized model. Russia's program, likewise, has seen a number of recent setbacks with equipment failures and glitches. As this second decade progresses, we may see further emergence of China as a leader in space science and technology.