China's Shenzhou VII space capsule came back to earth Sunday, landing in the Mongolian desert. The purpose of the mission was to do some experiments and also have an astronaut tethered out into space, which they did successfully. China is the third country to have men in space, since in 2003, i think, they did a manned space mission.
It was news to me that China hadn't done anything like this in the past. I thought a lot of countries had done space stuff.
The suit that the astronaut wore while out in space is thought to have cost $10 million to $40 million, if i'm to be reading the British style of "$10m to $40m" correctly.
Many of the quotes in the story were about how momentous this was for China, and how this is part of a three-step program. So to find out just why this is so momentous, i followed a link on BBC.com to an article titled "What's driving China's space efforts?"
According to Dean Cheng, senior Asia analyst at think tank CNA in Washington, D.C., there are many political motivations for the China space program. It seems to be a way of saying to the rest of the world that China has "arrived" on the international stage. Also, interestingly, Cheng said it's a move on the part of the government to boost the morale of the China citizenry.
"There are problems like melamine in milk. There are issues of corruption. But the party has shown it is able to achieve things that no previous Chinese government has ever done, and that China is among the first-rank powers in advanced technology," Cheng said.
The article then goes on to say that there may be military motivation with this space program, like developing precision launching systems which could carry over to weapons technology.
"It is a demonstration of technological virtuosity," said Dr Roger Launius, senior curator in the division of space history at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. "It's a method of showing the world they are second to none - which is a very important objective for them."
Some have apparently begun to think that the United States may get into a race with China, but both Launius and Cheng say that this isn't really the case.
"There is a space race underway," Launius said, "but it is an Asian space race. It is between China, Japan, maybe Korea, certainly India. They are competing with each other for stature in that context."
Some thought that because NASA is set to retire its shuttles, therefore having to rely on Russian craft to get up to the space stations, whom the U.S. is in conflict with over Georgia, the pressure would be on NASA to push up its debut of the new Ares-Orion. Apparently that's not the case.