"Because in Cyberspace, no one can hear you scream."
Friday, August 12, 2005
(New Scientist Space) China is on track to launch its first scientific satellite to orbit the Moon in 2007, according to the country's official news agency Xinhua. The orbiter will pave the way for future lunar missions and is just part of China's ambitious, if secretive, space programme.
China is launching the satellite in order to scan the lunar surface for favorable landing spots for what seems to be a future Chinese colony. The satellite, named Chang'e-I (after a moon goddess) will not only map out the lunar surface in 3-D, but will also scan beneath it as well.
After the lunar orbiter mission, some media reports suggest China will launch a lander to the surface of the Moon by 2010 and a robotic rover to return samples from the mission by 2020. But [Dean Cheng, senior Asia analyst at the non-profit think tank CNA Corporation in Alexandria, Virginia, US] does not put much faith in those dates. He says China tends to operate its space programme according to five-year plans, and the next plan begins in 2006.
Whatever China's true ambitions, one thing that is clear about the "red dragon" is that they keep their objectives hidden from the world, perhaps in order to save face just in case an accident occurs. China seems to be establishing a "bigger is better" attitude when it comes towards the space industry as one can notice by how long they had their firstastronautt in space (compared to Russia's that is).
China is already considering building a fourth launch site on Hainan Island, (located off of the nation's southeast coast) which should be a strong indicator to the world that the nation of a billion people is just as engaged in the space race as the United States and Japan.
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