The New Space Race

Analysts are predicting that China is only days away from their first manned space launch. The Chinese are using a design based on a modifed Russian Soyuz class capsule. The Chinese capsule called Shenzhou or "divine container" could launch as soon as this weekend, although some analysts predict the launch will not happen before the end of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party meeting on the 14th of October. has some more technical and geopolitical questions about the Chinese manned space program. The Shenzhou design appears to be a very advanced design able to carry at least two taikonauts into orbit and perform maneuvers including changes to orbital inclination.

The effects of a successful launch are difficult to guess at. With the US manned space program tied to the aging and dangerous shuttle, it is clear that something needs to happen for the US to regain the initiative in manned space exploration. Whether that move will be NASA adopting capsule designs with modern technology or a private space program with companies like Armadillo Aerospace and Scaled Composites already developing advanced private space vehicles. Whatever happens, it seems likely the the exclusive club of spacefaring nations will soon have a new member.

One thought on “The New Space Race

  1. Well, our “private space companies” aren’t exactly that- they’re just working on suborbital prototypes. The likelyhood that they could build anything capable of hauling payload into orbit on their resources is pretty low, enthusiastic as I am about the X-Prize and related ventures.

    On the other hand, as nutty as he is, Burt Rutan is a genius and, if I were in charge, I’d appoint him head of NASA. He’s the sort of fellow who could get the space program working again, even if he does believe the solar system was colonized by aliens or ancient astronauts ten thousand years ago. Hell, that’s exactly the sort of guy we need in charge… someone out of his fleepin’ gourd, who is willing to make daring moves that could save the ossified agency…

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