China's giant step into space
China's first manned space flight last week, although just a small step into space is a giant step for China. It has enormous significance in terms of China's science, industry, politics, international influence, national prestige and military achievements. China's 10th Five-Year Plan adopted for 2001-2005 included the country's space development. First to come were a series of unmanned flights (already achieved) and then manned space flights. Following the successful launch and retrieval of manned near-earth orbit satellites will come space-walking and docking; the development and launching of a space laboratory and the manning of a Chinese built space station in near-earth orbit. Space station At present, the only operational space station in near-earth orbit is one put up by Russia and the US. This has fallen on hard times with the breakup of the Soviet Union and the fatal accident that put the US Columbia space vehicles out of service. A mock-up of a "Space Laboratory" was released in China in February 2003 and it is to be put into orbit "no earlier than 2010", said Beijing Review on September 18 this year. China will then put a man on the moon and will "be able to actively participate in competition and co-operation, solving problems concerning lunar resources and the sharing of the benefits among different nations", writes Beijing Review. The magazine says: "For several thousand research institutes and companies in China, the project offers an unprecedented chance. The project could facilitate updates and improvements to large- scale R&D establishments. "In order to improve international co-operation, the China National Space Administration has established the Secretariat for Asia-Pacific Multilateral Co-operation in Outer Space. "The manned space flight project will help the strategists and decision-makers recognise the strategic importance of our space security to the nation's security. An important component of the US and Russian military security strategies is related to [their] space flight strategies and [their] mastery of space. "However, China is against the militarisation of outer space and hopes to warn its people of unsteady factors from the outer space", says Beijing Review. Military-free zone "China believes that outer space should be a military-free zone and will be able to play a more important role in agendas like the prevention of an arms race and the protection of its domain in outer space after it rises as a nation with advanced space technologies". Beijing Review lists China's space program together with the Olympic Games in 2008, the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in 2009 and the World Expo in 2010 to be held in Shanghai, as evidence of China's advancement and rise to power among the nations of the world.