The Economist reports on a recent government paper which sets out China’s ambitions in space, including improved Long March launchers, its own constellation of global positioning satellites, and fresh footprints on the Moon.
BY ONE well-known (if fictitious) criterion, the purpose of a space programme is to boldly go where no man has gone before. China, however, has a different plan: to boldly go back where men have already been. Specifically, with the release on December 29th of an official space-policy paper, it has said it wants to send people to the moon ….
The one place China does seem unlikely to be going, ironically, is the so-called International Space Station. This is an American-led venture and the United States seems reluctant to extend the term “International” to include China. That is partly because of paranoia about sharing technology with China, according to John Pike, the head of GlobalSecurity.org, an American think-tank. But it is also possible to detect a sense of pique that China is willing to do things (like going to the moon, and even just having a space programme that can put humans into orbit) which America, at the moment, can’t.
American astronaut Leroy Chiao argued at CNN last September that China’s exclusion from the ISS should end, particularly as the retirement of the US Shuttle fleet had left the ageing Russian Soyuz as the only means of manned access to the station.