Thursday, December 29, 2005

China Moon Mission Moves Forward

China's aggressive pursuit of space technology took another step forward this week with the official announcement that their Chang'e 1 lunar orbiter has entered production and is still on track to launch in 2007.
Following a successful launch, the craft will carry two taikonauts around the Moon and return them safely to Earth. A feat accomplished so far, only by the Russians and Americans.

This is China's first effort to reach the moon. Earlier launches of the Shenzhou spacecraft were proof of concept for the Chinese technology, based in no small part on the wildly successful, and ultra-reliable, Soyuz spacecraft developed and still in use by the Russians.

China's space program was started in 1968 with the immediate goal of putting two astronauts in orbit by 1973. Unfortunately, a national economic crisis forced the cancellation of the entire program in 1972. Twenty years later the Chinese government started again, with the same goal of putting men in orbit. This was achieved with Shenzhou 5 in 2003, following four successful test launches of Shenzhou craft.

Although the Chinese government has remained tight-lipped about future spaceship plans, it is widely believed the Shenzhou 8 craft will become the permanent version of the Shenzhou craft, and the standard design for the Chinese space fleet.

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