The Flight of Shenzhou 9

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryWhile the U.S. space shuttle program, such as it was, has been mothballed, and America’s very space program is on the rocks, China’s space program is literally taking off. China has recently sent into space three taikonauts (their version of our astronauts). One of these taikonauts is a woman pilot named Liu Yang. She is the first Chinese woman to go into space, and this is another incredible first for China. The other taikonauts are men—Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang. The three taikonauts boarded the space rocket, the Shenzhou 9, at a base somewhere in the Gobi Desert, where at 6:37 in the evening local time the rocket was launched. It was a perfect launch, and for the next 13 days the taikonuats will dock with China’s prototype space station Tiangong 1. The main purpose of this historic space flight will be to test Tiangong’s docking system and life support system. If successful, China will be that much closer to building its own space station by 2020.

Frankly I am impressed. At a time when it seems that only the Russians are really in space (hell, American astronauts have to hitch a ride on Russian space rockets because the U.S. discontinued developing its own rockets in favor of the space shuttle), the Chinese have not only roared into space, but it seems that China is in the lead of space exploration. With the European Union running into trouble, and the United States heavily in debt, the Chinese space program is going on strong. It was only recently that the taikonauts on China’s Shenzhou 7 had successfully completed its first space walk, and that China had sent unmanned probes to explore the Moon. China’s National Space Agency (CNSA) is working to not only build and complete a space station by 2020 (at about the time when the International Space Station is set to be retired), but that over the next five to seven years the CNSA will begin missions for deep space exploration focusing on the Moon and Mars.

At present, it seems that only Russia (not including China) is the only other country that has space personnel going up and down. Sadly, Russia does not have enough money to increase its space program’s expansion. A lot of Russia’s space equipment is growing obsolete, and the money coming from other countries (including the United States) to have Russia carry space personnel from other countries along with its own space personnel is one of the things keeping Russia’s space program going. Until America’s space program (or anyone else’s, for that matter) gets going again, the space program to watch is China’s.

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