China – who once again reiterated their ambitious plans for their fledgling space program – have received praise from Russian officials, who continue to be open to full cooperation on manned missions to the Moon and Mars.
Chinese space officials have been consistently claiming they intend to build a space station and a manned mission to the Moon within the next 10 to 15 years, once again repeating their plans to the media in Hong Kong on Sunday.
Hu Shixiang, deputy commander of China’s manned spaceflight project, was quoted by Chinese daily Xinhua, announced the development of a new rocket that is three times more powerful than their existing vehicle.
‘China has been developing a new variety of rocket with a carrying capacity three times as much as the present ones for achieving the two targets,’ he said.
‘China plans to achieve extravehicular activity by astronauts and locking of spacecraft by 2012, basis for establishing the future space station and even (missions to) the moon.’
While space commentators have been sceptical on China’s claims, the Russians are of the opinion that they’ll be successful, with leading members of Russian space think-tanks giving their thoughts to Russian newspaper Pravda.
‘I know that the Chinese have a comprehensive multistage program for the exploration of the Moon. It looks like the program will be a success,’ said Lev Zeleny, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, director of the Institute of Space Studies.
‘A new generation of the Chinese is calling the tune out there. They are not like the Chinese we got used to in the past. It is largely the people who worked in the West for several years, they learned everything they could during their foreign experience.
‘When they came back to China, the authorities created excellent working conditions for them. There are still some specialists who belong to the older generation but all of them play second fiddle to the young blood.’
Leonid Gorshkov, doctor of technical sciences, professor, senior researcher at the Russian Space Corporation Energia, also commentated, noting that despite the apparently tight timeline, the Chinese approach is one of caution.
‘I am really impressed by a cautious approach of the Chinese. They launch a spacecraft with animals once a year. Then they carry out the first manned mission. They launch the second manned mission after a considerable break. They are obviously very cautious. That is the way they have chosen,’ he said.
‘They unveiled their objectives and said that the job would be done in a very short period. However, it is quite difficult to make accurate predictions at the moment. All and all, the Shenzhou missions are a big success of the Chinese. I believe China will become a strong player in terms of international space exploration.’
Ivan Moiseev, scientific leader of the Institute of Space Politics, touched on an apparent lunar space station – which the Chinese haven’t previously revealed plans for. He also noted the difference between the approach taken during the space race between the then Soviet Union and the United States.
‘Unlike the USA and the USSR in the past, nowadays China is moving slowly yet surely while building up its space program,’ he said. ‘In terms of science and technology an emergency situation would be a very unpleasant thing to deal with for them. It would equally have a very negative impact on the social and political aspect of the program.
‘Considering the above, I believe that a lunar space station will be completed in some fifty years or so. However, I view the launch of the second manned mission as a positive event.’
Meanwhile, the Russian Federal Space Agency has confirmed they are ready for a December 6 launch of the WorldSat-3 communication satellite from the Baikonur space center.
Launch of the satellite will be onboard a Proton-M launch vehicle with Briz-M upper stage – on behalf of US communication giants SES Americom.
Roscosmos have begun launch preparations at the launch complex, in readiness to receive the vehicle on December 3. Proton-M launch vehicle was delivered to Baikonur launch site on October 25.
SES Americom satellite constellation covers the North and South Americas, Europe, Asia, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Designed by Alcatel Space, this will be the forth of their satellites to be launched into orbit on a Russian Proton vehicle.