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September 26, 2008

China takes its first steps in space

Posted: 03:07 PM ET

China's third manned spaceship has successfully entered orbit on a three-day mission, which will include China’s first spacewalk and the release of a small monitoring satellite.

Secrecy surrounded which of the three taikonauts would take China’s first step into space until Friday. However, authorities did release a photo of Zhai Zhigang, the Shenzhou VII mission's commander, putting on the “Feitian” spacesuit tailored for the spacewalk.

Getty Images

The spacewalk is expected to last about 30 minutes early Saturday morning U.S. time. The spacewalker's assignment is to retrieve a solid lubricant sample attached to the spaceship surface. The spacewalk will also be a rehearsal for China's future plans to build a space station.

After the spacewalk, an 88-pound (40-kilogram) satellite will be released to accompany the orbiting spaceship. Equipped with a CCD (charge-coupled device) 3D camera, the satellite will make a visual record of the voyage, transmitting the pictures to the ground control room.

When the re-entry module heads back to Earth, the satellite and an orbital module will continue to circle the planet. There is speculation that the satellite’s may be able to “attack and capture” other satellites. That ability does not appear in any of its official descriptions. Lu Jinrong, the engineer general at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, denied the speculation firmly. “The satellite will serve as a medium only,” he said.

The Shenzou VII sports a few advances not seen in the previous five decades of manned space flight, including advanced designs in spacesuits, and even the spacecraft's toilet. The “Feitian” (Fly to the sky) suit is touted as being more flexible than Russian spacesuits.

It's the latest in a year full of triumphs and tragedies for the Chinese people: Record winter snowstorms, a massive earthquake in Sichuan in May, the Olympics, the scandal over tainted infant formula, and now a trip to space that's part of a national target to put a taikonaut on the moon by the year 2020.

China has said there are no plans for additional manned missions in the near future. The first manned flight took place in 2003.

Chong Wu, CNN Science and Technology

Filed under: China • Space

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Franko   September 26th, 2008 3:15 pm ET

Large population times higher IQ. Hard to exhaust workaholics
Graduating enourmous number of engineers
Does US have any hope of keeping up ?

Damien   September 26th, 2008 5:57 pm ET

More to the point:
Large population, mostly living in poverty with little education.
'Higher IQ' largely based on fake test results.
Workers 'hard to exhaust' because 'exhausted' workers disappear mysteriously.
Enormous number of 'engineers' graduating from 'universities' that are the equivalent of Western community colleges.
Yes, I think the US not only can 'keep up' but will be far ahead of the Chinese for years to come.
Anyone care to comment on the premature release by Xinhua of the 'news report' of a successful launch and spacewalk that was released BEFORE the launch?

amazin byotch   September 26th, 2008 6:38 pm ET

this is sooo keww im totaly usin this for ma E science homework. . .

Ray G.   September 26th, 2008 7:03 pm ET

Damien, China is far more advanced than you give them credit. After all, the premature launch story reveals that China has mastered not only space travel but TIME travel as well.

Ray G.   September 26th, 2008 7:12 pm ET

Which reminds me ... iIf the LHC were to unexpectedly create tachyons, wouldn't we know it ahead of time?

pvr   September 26th, 2008 7:41 pm ET

Let's celebrate with a nice, frosty, melamine milkshake!!!

Ray G.   September 26th, 2008 7:46 pm ET

Prediction: The one who makes the spacewak will be the "cutest" of the three.

Marvin   September 26th, 2008 8:53 pm ET

lies... lies... lies... any of them running for office?

elmer fudd   September 26th, 2008 9:47 pm ET

one thing the west is not prepared to give up is it,s right to bragg how good they are and every other nation knows nothing, does it seem logical that the russians are so far behind and can not be a threat to the wests military, especially when the space shuttles were grounded for failures and the west had to have the russians launch thier space junk for them, if the americans are so far superior than everyone else why have they not abandond thier space program and used the money to help the poor , the homeless, and paid off thier debt, or are you going to follow the bull was money well spent, you watch now that the war in IRAQ is winding down , but the improvised road side devises and suicide attacks will continue almost indefinitely from here on now that the americans have started that off, the americans are already looking for another war or conflict already, i think the russians and china are the wrong people to pick one with, the big heavy boats the americans are sailing around the world is the next example of america driveing thier over sized vehicles when other country,s were developeing economical sized vehicles, if they are paying conparable fuel prices to what we are paying at the pumps , they are in trouble.

S Callahan   September 27th, 2008 12:00 am ET

I am all for the US to continue it 's space program and currently advocate by citizen voice for greater funding for education and resources for the Space program to go forward.

I find it funny regarding the comment from Ray G. 'cause my first thought of China going into space was that they are now part of the intergalltic team and some delievery had to be I can't belittle them going in space...I just want America to stay on top (it's a family thing)....

R.N.   September 27th, 2008 1:16 am ET

The Shenzhou VII mission should serve as both a warning and a wake-up call for the United States to step up it's manned space flight
program. Sure China can celebrate with it's TV coverage, parades and
hugs & kisses from the world at large; But they've only duplicated
what astronaut Ed White did on Gemini 4 in 1965. This is the same
China that shot down one its own satellites last year and wants to
beat us the Moon. What the U.S. needs to do is step up with the
Orion/Aries program and get our people back to the Moon ASAP
to really explore and enventualy colonize it and visit some near-Earth
asteroids. As well as a bigger and better space station than the one we have now. Promote space tourism and generate interest in OUR YOUNG PEOPLE is science & technology fields. This is what we
as Americans SHOULD HAVE DONE IN 1970 if the Nixon administration held back on support. SPACE can provide a
multitude of possibillities for humanityand for that, the United States
not only should lead, BUT MUST LEAD, NOT CHINA!

Franko   September 27th, 2008 1:34 am ET

Chinese are smart, not crazy God Zombies, have binary, ying-yang system, Confucus sayings – branch that bends does not break etc. Wild, extreme beaucratic turns in history. Average high school graduate similar to first year or 2 of US college.

End of Chinese navy – Wiki: "Emperor Hongxi in September 1424, he canceled Zheng He's maritime expeditions." Corrupt beaucrats can corrupt the centuries ahead. Hence, was long time Chinese backwardness.

USA did same,after Moon space program, concentrated on maximizing commuting, corrupting, supporting dictators, bombing for human rights, democracy, except in Burma.

Just think how far advanced China would be without the Commies.
Taiwan, many times multiplied.

HarryW   September 27th, 2008 10:32 am ET

"Good" to see that all the foreign aid we've given to China over the years has helped them conquer space. Maybe NASA should become a foreign communist country so it can get the funding it needs.

steven harnack   September 27th, 2008 10:42 am ET

ignorant people find comfort in belittling and demonizing others because in their small mean minds it makes them less fearful.

lin chia   September 27th, 2008 10:48 am ET

Now Americans have to witness that the Chinese are catching up. Will they preserve their superiority-complex for now? Space belongs not only to the United States. It's the future of the Asians, too. Just face the facts, man.

Paul H   September 27th, 2008 5:02 pm ET

Out of our nearly 10 trillion dollar national debt, one trillion of which is owed to the People's Republic of China. The point made, I'm all for space exploration and colonization as a source of wealth and solution towards some critical issues such as energy crisis and population crisis. It is comforting to see that the space program and our spirit of exploration that led us to America is still alive and well. Hopefully United States will also step up its space development and participate in a friendly space competition that helped us to create the enthusiasm for sending a man to the moon within a decade.

Ching   September 27th, 2008 6:17 pm ET

#2 Damien stated "Enormous number of ‘engineers’ graduating from ‘universities’ that are the equivalent of Western community colleges."

Please tell us what is the source or factual base for your statement.

I teach in a University and I have an opposite impression.

Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Chinese college students have studied in US so far. Invariably, US students are academically at least one year behind compared to the Chinese counterparts, at every level. With the exception of a few truly bright and hardworking ones, American students really are partying instead of studying, if you apply the Chinese curriculum and standard.

Before you make a statement like this, maybe you should check out the faces, or the names, of the members of research labs in any major US Universities.

johnell deloach   September 27th, 2008 9:12 pm ET

this is tabloid about a man and the moon it is more important things going on in this world

China takes its first steps in space   September 27th, 2008 9:32 pm ET

[...] Source: CNN [...]

Franko   September 28th, 2008 12:01 am ET

Since before the days of the Silk Road, Chinese have been, not just spice and silk standard setters, but also pillars of civilization. Beaucrats, World Wars destroyed a lot, and USA, not EurAsia, by default, is leading, for only a little while longer.

Most Olympic gold medals, Large CERN collider, space, world center of manufacturing, indicators of back to the past, the future of US world importance. The world of interactions may become flat, with mountains, including China; A big hill, not a snow capped mountain, will be USA ?

USA took time out after the Moon, but still leads in military and microprocessors. More imported scientists and engineers needed to help.

Eyes rolled up   September 28th, 2008 12:10 am ET

On the courstery, I do appluse the pace the Chinese enigineers in their space program. If you stop and think the fact they've only had done 3 times now with manned missions – from the first time a Chinese man in space to now their first spacewalk. Three times, while the USA in their beginning of NASA had to do many, many times before they reached to the point of their own spacewalk. I had made notes compared between China and USA.

China is actually using the knowledge and information from the NASA and Russian space program in the last 50 years since. Because Russia and USA had done everything needed to know about the effects on people while orbiting in space around Earth. China don't need to "replay" the whole thing, so they merely only need to focus the important points – like the first time in space, the first two-person mission and now the first 3 person crew plus the first spacewalk.

How many times had USA done with 2-person missions in the 1960s? A lot more than ONE! And that was then USA finally go next with 3-person missions. In a way, China is really saving themselves the headache of figuring out stuff between the missions – Russia and USA did for them in a sense.

The Shenzhou space capulse is interesting to me because – yes, Chinese did brought all the blueprints from Russian space program in the beginning. But Chinese do that so they can study the mechainces and look for any impovements while they were testing the stress and fuctions in sending unmanned capsules before their first manned mission. In other words, the Chinese actually had morphed the original Russian model into their own version of Shenzhou model. Right now, the looks and fuctions inisde the capsule are all different to a large part. But the foundation of the capsule is still the same as Russian capsule is.

So, I wouldn't be surprised to see them begin their path for their own space station sooner than thought later. I have to say though i hate to admit – the Chinese sure do their homework very well!

Brian P   September 28th, 2008 1:04 am ET

Given the Chinese attention to Quality Assurance, it is likely the first major space accident we'll see. While it was Leonardo who said "we can fly" it was America who give heavier than air flight to the rest of the world. You can check those facts all you'd like.

Franko   September 28th, 2008 3:26 am ET

Money, technology, competant motivated people.
Space stations, Moon mining, bringing He3 back.
The ultimate energy, sell to USA. Impossible ?

Josh   September 28th, 2008 4:16 am ET

Look, China is a very capable and powerful country, there is no question about that. Many people in China are very motivated, ambitious and smart. There is definitely a lot of nationalism driving the space program. The Chinese feel it is "Their Turn" to be the next super power and I don't blame them. They feel cheated and humiliated by years of being technologically and economically immature.
The United States is obviously to busy worrying about oil and geopolitical dominance to devote a substantial amount of its resources to ensuring that it is developing steadily enough to be at the forefront of technology and economy.
And I think China is making a very smart move by touching all the Technological bases (space, computers, military...etc). But what I want to ask the Chinese who have made the previous comments above is this:
1. Why are there so many (thousands every year in fact) cases of Chinese nationals (sponsored by the honorable PRC) stealing or trying to steal technology and intellectual property from the United States? This seems pretty dishonorable and, more to the point, pathetic for a nation that keeps claiming "homegrown" technological achievements.
2. Of course there are smart people in China! There are smart people everywhere. China just has more people. So why are so many Chinese trying to go to American Universities if the ones in China are so great?
3. If China wants to be the next Super Power, why don't they be more deserving of it? I mean, from what I hear, China does pretty horrific things to its own people. Imagine what they would do to non Chinese citizens.....

Lang   September 28th, 2008 3:05 pm ET


Let me answer your questions. These are just my personal opinions.

1. Where did you get thousands of cases? Any creditable sources? Twenty or thirty years ago, similar things were said about Japan. Some prominent cases, like Wen-hoo Lee, were simply racially and politically based persecutions. Look at the anthrax case, how efficient and correct the investigators are! It is obvious that the fast development of the countries in East Asia in the last 40 years is not the result of discovering oil or stealing from the US. So GM, Ford, Intel and Microsoft are all so stupid that they have established research centers and factories in China so their technologies can be stolen more quickly and easily? 🙂
2. You are damn right 🙂 China just has more people. If you check the foreign students per capita, Japan, South Korea and some other countries are way ahead of China and India. No one denies the US has the best research universities, attracting people from all over the world. It is also true that most good American students are not studying Science and Technology in colleges.
3. China never said they wanted to be the next super power. Chinese people know China is a developing country with a lot of problems. China’s premier Wen Jianbo said a few days ago at UN that China would never seek to be the leader of the World.

Yes, there are bad people in China adding melamine into milk for more profits. Maybe because “China just has more people”, there are more bad people in China 🙂 But my impression is that China, as a whole, eagerly wants to be friends with the US and other countries so they can peacefully develop and have a better life. They have no capacity and are not trying to be the world police. The people who are always standing on the moral high ground probably do not need to cry wolf all the time to scare themselves 🙂

phw   September 28th, 2008 5:44 pm ET

How many PhDs American universities award to people with Chinese last name each year?
How many freshmen with Chinese last names American Universities admit each year?

Don't forget even Barack Obama is half foreign-his father is from Kenya.

Josh   September 28th, 2008 7:37 pm ET

To Lang.
I personally feel that China IS going to be the next Super Power. If the people of China do not hope for this (probably not openly) I would be very surprised.
As to your question about credible sources......
I can only tell you that most cases of intellectual espionage regarding, specifically, U.S. military technology, is not made public. The cases reported or that make it to the media are only a small percent of what is actually going on. It is well known that China is directly sponsoring agents and Chinese Nationals to extract and send back technology from the U.S. The N.S.A has reported continuously that there are actually many cases of Chinese men being seen rummaging through the N.S.A dumpsters filling trash bags full of shredded documents.
Anyway, it angers me that the people of China are not offended by this themselves. I would be deeply disturbed if I found out that American Nationals were going into China, working for Chinese companies, and then stealing blueprints or intellectual property to send back to the U.S. government. It would be pretty upsetting that we would need to do that.
And Lang, yes, companies like Microsoft, Intel and Ford are stupid to set up factories and research facilities in China. Are you telling me that China developed all its brand new cars and trucks on its own?! Almost every model made by a Chinese car manufacturer is a copy of either a Western or Japanese model. Just do some research and you will find many cases of Toyota or GM filing lawsuits against Chinese companies who have blatantly used their designs and technology. For many U.S. firms the fear of moving factories over to China is derived from the very real possibility of having their products copied. There is actually a whole section of the department of trade devoted to helping U.S. companies who are deciding to transfer operations to China deal with Chinese stealing their product design and technology.
And to PHW.
I think Chinese people are smart and capable. I don't have any illusions about the capacity of Chinese people to succeed on their own.
Having said that. I think the Chinese people should demand more integrity from their government and society. It drives a big wedge between China and the U.S.

Josh   September 28th, 2008 7:38 pm ET

By the way PHW. I'm not originally from the U.S either.

Lang   September 28th, 2008 9:36 pm ET

Hi Josh:

You are still not able to provide creditable sources. The reason that some very powerful people want to establish China as the No.1 enemy is very clear – defense budget, contracts and profits. It is all about power and money. China does not have the intention to become the foe of the U.S. As I said, some high-profile cases such as Wen-hoo Lee were laughable and did not stand.

What technologies could a person get by rummaging through the N.S.A dumpsters? Maybe he should rummage through Intel’s dumpsters. I am not an expert on this. But if a guy is intelligent enough to understand the information he gets from the dumpsters, it should not be very difficult for him to find a decent, well-paid job in China or in the U.S. It is just too dangerous to be a spy and there is no incentive here. If you tell me it is about ideology, I have to say you do not understand Chinese people today.

Yes, there are copycats. Thirty years ago, Japanese were accused of stealing technologies from the U.S. and Japanese cars were deemed junk. Don’t you think the sign of Hyundai looks like that of Honda? Chinese have a lot to learn about capitalism. I do think they and the world have a lot to learn about American’s high integrity and moral standards 🙂

I have been in both countries. There is no doubt that the U.S. is a better country to live. But the U.S. has come a long way, too. If you look back, the U.S. in 1960 was very different from the U.S. today. Certainly China is not on the same level as the U.S. I doubt that China will ever be as rich as the U.S. due to its limited resources and large population. China is developing, maybe sometimes chaotically. But as I can see, she does not have bad intentions toward the U.S.. It is not China’s interests to fight with the U.S.. If you really want to believe the stories told by the defense contractors, I have nothing more to say here.

kohkl   September 28th, 2008 11:01 pm ET

the west is seeing ghosts everywhere.

Franko   September 29th, 2008 12:38 am ET

Extreme space environment requires extreme precision and reliability.
Attention to detail, hence the appeal of things made in Japan.

China in space, sets high quality to aim for, in other internal projects.
Another round of spinoffs from space related technologies !

sammi   September 29th, 2008 2:17 am ET

After they failed in fighting with west countries, Chinese people lost their confidence about their own culture and system for a quite long time. But now, they just restore their confidence by adopt the good part from their ex-enemies.

Yes, political system, pollution, large, population, human right etc, everything you can speak them out are not perfect in China. In fact Chinese person know much more the truth than the outside world.

The center of the world is not West in Chinese belief, "The middle Kingdom" is the real meaning of China, that means China is the center.

But Chinese people has no interests to be the Pirates like the western culture has no shame on that. In fact, the cornerstone of the west society is based on the spirit of Pirates. Using more advanced technology and weapon to rob the other's resource and work result, That's a easy way to follow but it can not be long.

To live together with peace and true open to others is the hope. Old Chinese person never ask their knowledge property right because they give their tech to other people. But now, because US temporary know more than others, then they always worry about the others copy them.

That's really weak. Why Google is more popular now, they open source, share the information to anyone. Microsoft is a super power, the did very much advanced research and want to make money by that. But information and technology is all human being's achievement, not private property in essential.

Chinese person decided the basic value is based share with others. They choose the basic resource is shared for each person, that's the cornerstone of their system. I believe that's good. It's not easy to follow and harder to maintain.

Chinese people would bring more surprise to the world but will never bring the war or panic to the world. Because they would like sacrifice themselves to help others(e.g. Only want very low price for their product, that's the first time for Chinese person contributed to the whole world.) They produce the product for others without considering their worker people's benefit and polluted environment.
Anyway, We live on the same earth. Each person is one member of a
big family. Fight and Argue is definitely not the best solution to find the real happiness. Each member should contribute their own gifts for the family.

Marlin May   September 29th, 2008 12:02 pm ET

Miles – Why no mention of the successful Space-X orbital launch on the 28th? First private orbital launch ever, warrants a mention on CNN don't you think?

Franko   September 29th, 2008 1:40 pm ET

Europeans. Asians, Africans, self-select migrating.
Ideas and skills mixing, improving, just like the Silk Route

Ready for a renewed goal to explore and utilize beyond out limitations.

Stig Eriksen   September 29th, 2008 2:18 pm ET

Funny how americans brag about everything "they" have accomplished, when most of the big scientific discoveries in the last 100 years have been from non-americans.

America is a bankrupt country, living on the mercy of the multinationals.

The fact that China now has shown the will, and rescourses to put a man i space, should shouw the average Joe, that he needs to pull his head out of the dir, and start taking the rest of the world seriously.

America has for the last 10-15 years ben more of a laughingstock, or a cause for anger, then any kind of inspiration.

I just hope you people have enough sense to stop acting like the rest of the world is your oyster when your shell is cracked... 😉

Sunil   May 19th, 2012 10:22 pm ET

EssKayKay;You called the WRONG peploe. Might've gotten better feedback/action from State Department. See, it's the fancy lads in the striped pants at Foggy Bottom that deal with diplomatic protocol. Methinks the White House had a myriad of security deatils to hash out. Call State and see wtf about wtf. That aside, I'm betting Chairman Maos' Little Red Book is atop CINCs reading list. hahahahaha

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