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

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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

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  • 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.

[NEWS] Some Wednesday links

  • Bloomberg notes concerns over Northern Ireland’s frontiers, looks at how Japanese retailers are hoping to take advantage of Vietnam’s young consumers, examines the desperation of Venezuelans shopping in Colombia, looks at Sri Lankan interest in Chinese investment, suggests oil prices need to stay below 40 dollars US a barrel for Russia to reform, observes that Chinese companies are increasingly reluctant to invest, and suggests Frankfurt will gain after Brexit.
  • Bloomberg View gives advice for the post-Brexit British economy, looks at how Chinese patterns in migration are harming young Chinese, suggests Hillary should follow Russian-Americans in not making much of Putin’s interference, and looks at the Israeli culture wars.
  • CBC considers the decolonization of placenames in the Northwest Territories, notes Canada’s deployment to Latvia was prompted by French domestic security concerns, and looks at an ad promoting the Albertan oil sands that went badly wrong in trying to be anti-homophobic.
  • The Inter Press Service considers the future of Turkey and looks at domestic slavery in Oman.
  • MacLean’s looks at China’s nail house owners, resisting development.
  • The National Post reports from the Colombia-Venezuela border.
  • Open Democracy considers the nature of work culture in the austerity-era United Kingdom, looks at traditions of migration and slavery in northern Ghana, examines European bigotry against eastern Europeans, and examines the plight of sub-Saharan migrants stuck in Morocco.
  • Universe Today notes two nearby potentially habitable rocky worlds, reports that the Moon’s Mare Imbrium may have been result of a hit by a dwarf planet, and reports on Ceres’ lack of large craters.

[NEWS] Some Monday links

  • Bloomberg notes the rail boom in Bangladesh, looks at the fall in the value of the pound, notes a German proposal to give young Britons German citizenship and observes Spanish concern over giving Scotland a voice, looks at competition between Paris and Frankfurt to get jobs from the City of London, looks at how a Chinese takeover of an American ham company worked well, and observes that revised statistics show a much rockier economic history in Argentina.
  • Bloomberg View notes that Merkel is Britain’s best hope for lenient terms and compares Brexit to the Baltic break from the Soviet Union.
  • The Globe and Mail notes continuing problems with the implementation of tidal turbines on the Bay of Fundy.
  • MacLean’s notes that pride marchers in the Manitoba city of Steinbach can walk on the street, and looks at the impact of immigrant investment on Vancouver’s housing market.
  • National Geographic notes the endangerment of Antarctica’s penguins.
  • Open Democracy compares Brexit and the breakup of the former Soviet Union, looks at water shortages in Armenia, and examines the impact of Brexit on Ireland.
  • The Chicago Tribune looks at urban violence.
  • Universe Today notes the Dutch will be going to the Moon with the Chinese.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • D-Brief notes that astronomers have witnessed a distant black hole eat a star.
  • Dangerous Minds looks at 1980s VHS cover art from Germany.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze looks at TYC 3667-1280-1b, a warm Jupiter orbiting a red giant.
  • The Dragon’s Tales looks at how an electric wind helped render Venus uninhabitable.
  • A Fistful of Euros’ Alex Harrowell notes that the dependence of Brexit proponents on outrage over immigration limits their appeal.
  • The LRB Blog notes the severe internal divisions within the Labour Party.
  • The Map Room Blog links to a map of North America drawn in the style of fantasy maps.
  • The Planetary Society Blog notes Chinese plans for the Chang’e 4 probe to explore the far side of the Moon.