The launch of the Long March-2F rocket carrying Shenzhou-9 into space
On Monday, Chinese spaceship Shenzhou-9 docked with Tiangong-1, the first time that China connected a manned craft with an orbiting module. Liu Yang, one of the three crew members, also became the nation’s first woman in space.
China’s ground base regulated the docking by remote control, and then Yang, along with fellow crew member Liu Wang and mission commander Jing Haipeng, entered the Tiangong-1 module for a 10-day stay in space. Although China did not send a man into space until 2003, becoming the third nation to do so behind both Russia and the United States, its space program does not lack for ambition. It plans to launch more manned space missions, possibly even to the moon, and to replace tiny Tiangong-1 with a larger 60-ton space station by 2020.
Given the growing rivalry between the U.S. and China, you might expect NASA to up its game in order to keep up with China’s growing space presence. But instead, the U.S. is cutting NASA’s budget and, with the success of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, encouraging private companies to bear the brunt of space exploration. Perhaps the U.S. should be trying to collaborate with China’s taikonauts rather than shutting them out—because if we kick off another space race, it may be a marathon we won’t win.
[via Ars Technica]
Image courtesy of Xinhuanet