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[LINK] “China’s Big Year in Space Sparks Excitement and Speculation”

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Scientific American‘s Leonard David describes the noteworthy ongoing improvement of China’s reach in space.

Floating back under parachute from outer space to Inner Mongolia on November 17, China’s Shenzhou-11 astronauts brought to a close the nation’s longest piloted space trek, which lasted 33 days. The mission capped off a year that saw a series of noteworthy successes in China’s blossoming space program, including the country’s sixth manned space mission, the launch of a new space lab module and the inaugural use of a new spaceport. China also opened a world-class radio telescope this year, signaling the country’s growing involvement in space science. These advances, experts say, establish China as one of the top-tier spacefaring nations on Earth and the one with perhaps more momentum than anyone—a status that excites scientists and could inspire other nations to step up their own plans.

Most of the Shenzhou-11 mission had the two crew members, Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong, safely tucked inside the live-in space lab Tiangong-2, which just launched in September. The duo’s work was dedicated in large part to honing expertise required to develop China’s own large space station. That station is due to come online by the mid 2020s—around when the International Space Station is due for retirement—a fact that Chinese space planners have emphasized.

The year’s Chinese checklist also included the first use of a new Kennedy Space Center-like spaceport, the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island off China’s southern coast. The sprawling facility saw the maiden liftoffs of two rockets this year: the Long March-7 and a heavy-lifter, the Long March-5. Both boosters are essential to an expansive space agenda, with the latter dedicated to lofting the nation’s multi-modular space station and possibly, quite literally, shooting for the moon.

China is building upon earlier robotic lunar exploits, including unmanned orbiters and a lander that dispatched the nation’s Yutu moon rover in December 2013. Now their multi-pronged plan calls for the robotic spacecraft Chang’e 5 to launch in the second half of 2017 atop a Long March-5 rocket, land on the moon and collect several pounds of lunar samples, then hurl the specimens back to Earth. And on tap in 2018 is the launch of a lander headed for the far side of the moon, which would be a space first for any country. Looking beyond the lunar landscape, China is also busy at work on a Mars rover that is slated for a 2020 liftoff.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 2, 2016 at 6:45 pm

Posted in Politics, Science

Tagged with , , , ,

[BLOG] Some Sunday links

  • The Boston Globe‘s The Big Picture shares photos of Spain’s Pueblos Blancos of Andalusia.
  • blogTO reports on Toronto’s biggest pumpkin parade.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly talks about the immigrant’s dilemma on election date.
  • Dangerous Minds notes the importance of Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s concert for Hillary.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a report on hot Jupiter Kelt-17b.
  • The Dragon’s Tales suggests Sputnik Planitia may dominate Pluto.
  • Far Outliers talks about Cherokee language revitalization movements.
  • Language Log looks at a Korean tradition of satirical poetry in Korea and classical Chinese.
  • Marginal Revolution links to a fascinating book about manuscripts.
  • The NYRB Daily talks about Trump as a consequence of the Iraq War.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw notes the recent discovery of evidence for ancient habitation in Australia.
  • The Planetary Society Blog notes the advance of plans for a lunar-orbit space station.
  • Peter Rukavina shares headlines in the Guardian of a century ago on Romania’s entry into the First World War.
  • Torontoist annotates the SmartTrack report.
  • Towleroad shares Robyn’s new track, “Trust Me.”
  • Understanding Society celebrates its 9th anniversary.
  • Window on Eurasia reports on Russia’s escalating HIV/AIDS epidemic.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Bad Astronomy notes the discovery of water vapour clouds in the atmosphere of nearby brown dwarf WISE 0855.
  • blogTO notes the imminent arrival of winter weather.
  • Centauri Dreams reports on a new theory of the Moon’s origins suggesting the impact collision which create it was much more violent than we thought.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes how snowlines migrate across a system in the course of a star’s life.
  • The LRB Blog reports on the mind-numbing legal complexities of Brexit.
  • The Map Room Blog reports on a new book of maps of New York City.
  • The NYRB Daily explores the making of a documentary in 1970 on Thomas Bernhard.
  • Seriously Science notes that kittens recognize the sounds of their mother.
  • Towleroad reports on a South African imam promoting gay rights at a Cape Town mosque.
  • Window on Eurasia argues Putin’s annexation of Crimea made reform in Ukraine essential, and reports on budget cuts and their threat in the North Caucasus.

[LINK] “China wants the Moon. But first, it has to spend a month in space”

Emma Grey Ellis’ Wired article takes a look at how China’s space program is progressing.

On Monday, at a launch center in the middle of the Gobi desert, two taikonauts boarded a spacecraft and rocketed into space. Yesterday their ship, Shenzou-11, docked with China’s experimental space lab, Tiangong-2. For the next 30 days—China’s longest crewed space mission—they will conduct experiments, test equipment, practice repairs, try to grow plants, and keep track of how the space environment affects their bodies. Sound familiar, space fans?

It should. Tiangong-2 is like a baby International Space Station. Sure, it doesn’t have the ISS’s scale, technological sophistication, or multi-national backing. But it’s the technical testing ground for the grown up space station China plans to launch in the next couple of years. Which will more permanent, and about the size of Mir, the Soviet Union’s space station in the 80s and 90s. But mostly, Tiangong-2 an important part of China’s long term plan to build a Moon base. And from there, it’ll be hard to deny China a seat at the space superpower table.

Like everything China does, people consistently underestimate the nation’s space program. Common snubs include: It’s miles behind the curve; their gear is all Russian knockoffs; their launch schedules are hopelessly slapdash. Yeah, those have all been true at one point, but not an honest assessment of the program as it currently stand.

China did not launch its first satellite until the 1970s, and didn’t really invest heavily in their space program until the early ’90s (the Cultural Revolution was a bigger priority) but they’ve been gaining ground on the US and Europe ever since. Early on, the nation’s program relied on Russia, both for components and training for their would-be taikonauts.

And the Shenzhou spacecraft do resemble Soviet (now Russian) Soyuz. But don’t hate: “The Shenzhou is the same idea, but not a copy,” says Jonathan McDowel, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “In its present form, it’s very much a Chinese vehicle.” The Chinese spacecraft is bigger, more powerful, and its forward habitation module has solar panels that can provide power for a separate mission—even after the astronauts climb aboard Tiangong-2.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 19, 2016 at 9:45 pm

Posted in Politics, Science

Tagged with , , , ,

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait evaluates the doability of Elon Musk’s proposal for colonizing Mars.
  • blogTO notes that Casa Loma will be transformed into a haunted house for the month of October.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes NASA’s belief that Europa almost certainly has watery plumes.
  • False Steps shares an early American proposal for a lunar base.
  • Far Outliers notes the location of multiple massacres in Chinese military history.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that a far-right group is unhappy Alabama judge Roy Moore has been suspended.
  • The Map Room Blog notes the acquisition of a British-era map of Detroit.
  • Marginal Revolution speculates as to whether a country’s VAT promotes exports.
  • The Planetary Society Blog notes the end of the Rosetta space probe.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog charts increases in maximum life expectancy over time.
  • Seriously Science notes a paper arguing that small talk diminishes happiness.
  • Towleroad reports on a gay Cameroonian asylum seeker in the United Kingdom at risk of deportation.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes Instapundit’s departure from Twitter without noting why Reynolds is leaving.
  • Window on Eurasia reports on the complexities surrounding the possibility of another Finno-Ugric festival.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • At Antipope, Charlie Stross writes about how colonizing even a nearby and Earth-like Proxima Centauri b would be far beyond our abilities.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly responds to Canada’s mourning of the Tragically Hip.
  • Centauri Dreams considers the life that may exist in the oceans of Europa.
  • D-Brief notes an Alaskan village that is being evacuated because of climate change-related erosion.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes that Gliese 1132b is likely a Venus analog.
  • The Dragon’s Tales wonders about Titan’s polar regions.
  • False Steps considers the Soviet plans for a substantial lunar settlement.
  • Far Outliers reports on the Czech and Slovak secret agents active in the United States during the First World War.
  • Gizmodo notes the steady spread of lakes on the surface of East Antarctica.
  • Language Hat examines the birth of the modern Uzbeks.
  • Language Log shares bilingual Spanish-Chinese signage from Argentina.
  • Marginal Revolution notes the arrival of tourists in Belgium seeking euthanasia.
  • Maximos62 shares footage from Singapore’s Festival of the Hungry Ghost.
  • Steve Munro notes the little publicity given to the 514 streetcar.
  • Justin Petrone reflects on Estonian stereotypes of Latvia.
  • pollotenchegg looks at the regional demographics of Ukraine.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog notes the inclusion of Cossacks in the Russian census.
  • Strange Maps shares a map of the actually-existing Middle East.
  • Understanding Society examines the interwar ideology of Austrofascism.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at what the Soviet coup attempt in 1991 did and did not do.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • At Antipope, Charlie Stross describes how Brexit has forced him to rewrite his latest novel.
  • D-Brief suggests early Venus was once habitable, and notes the rumour of an Earth-like planet found around Proxima Centauri.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes the detection of storms of brown dwarfs.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on more signs of water on Mars.
  • False Steps notes an early American proposal for a space station in orbit of the Moon.
  • Language Hat talks about lost books, titles deserving broader readership.
  • The LRB Blog talks about the EU and Brexit.
  • Marginal Revolution notes a study suggesting Trump support is concentrated among people close to those who have lost out from trade.
  • Neuroskeptic reports on the story of H.M., a man who lost the ability to form new memories following a brain surgery.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy engages the idea of voting with a lesser evil.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the role of immigrants in Moscow’s economy.