America has enjoyed it's monopoly on space for almost 50 years now. From the hundreds of military and communication satellites to deep-space exploration and theory, America has been one of the few nations to find the value of space programs and, thusly, is one of the only nations left responsible for that technology.
And now, after many, many hard years of research, China has finally developed their own space program without U.N. and U.S. intervention.
They have launched an unmanned probe out into space and it successfully returned. They are now planning for manned flight missions in the future. What does this mean to you?
America's vunerability is revealed and will be exploited very soon: It's reliance on it's satellites. An independant Chinese space program will result in a single reaction by America: A satellite defense program, manned and unmanned.
BEIJING - Exulting over the launch of its fourth unmanned space capsule, China said Monday it is on the verge of sending a human into orbit — a step toward fulfilling its decades-old dream of joining the elite club of space-faring nations.
The Shenzhou capsule, which blasted off before dawn Monday from a rocket base in the Gobi desert, carried all the equipment for manned flight, the government said. It said the mission will test life-support and other systems.
If no problems are reported, then a manned flight is "just around the corner," said Zhang Qingwei, president of the state-run China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., which manufactured the capsule, quoted by the official China Daily newspaper.
The secretive, military-linked program is a key prestige project for the communist government. A manned launch would make China only the third country, after Russia and the United States, to put a human in space on its own.
China is proceeding cautiously and hasn't announced a date for a manned launch. But — in a replay of the U.S.-Soviet space race of the 1960s — its leaders tout China's test flights as proof of the communist system's technical prowess as they strive to win popular support at home and respect abroad.
The noon newscast Monday on state television devoted 10 minutes to the Shenzhou launch. State newspapers were emblazoned with color pictures of the flames from the Long March rocket lighting up the night sky. "Flying into space — and flying toward glory," declared the Communist Party newspaper People's Daily.
The flight was the fourth for a Shenzhou capsule — whose name means "Sacred Vessel" — and the second in less than 10 months. Foreign experts have said China is likely to conduct four or five test launches before sending up a human.
Astronauts picked from the ranks of fighter pilots in China's air force have been training for several years to make the first flights into space. Officials refuse to disclose their identities, though as official confidence grows, state media have begun to disclose details of their training — much of it believed to take place in a converted medical laboratory in Beijing.
The Shenzhou is based on Russia's Soyuz space capsule, with extensive modifications by Chinese designers.
Two astronauts — dubbed "taikonauts" after the Chinese word for space — have been sent to study at Russia's cosmonaut school, and are believed to be teaching others. The astronauts used the Shenzhou IV before its launch for their first training in a capsule, state media said.
"The astronauts are absolutely capable of making their maiden voyage to outer space," Su Shuangning, chief designer of the astronaut system, was quoted as saying Monday.
China has never disclosed the price of its space program, code named Project 921, but foreign experts say the total could be as little as $1 billion. They note that salaries for Chinese scientists are low and that technologies that Russian and U.S. rocket builders had to invent are now widely available.
Nevertheless, in contrast to the upbeat state press, comments posted Monday on Chinese Internet billboards complained about the high price of space flight at a time when millions live in poverty.
"We are spending money on spacecraft but can't afford school tuition for rural children," said a message posted on a Web site run by People's Daily and signed "Asian Orphan Crying in the Wind."
Other comments on the People's Daily site were similarly negative — a tone made all the more striking because such billboards are monitored by censors who enforce government rules on content and remove remarks considered too critical.
China has harbored ambitions for manned space flight since at least the 1970s, when one early attempt was scrapped because of the political chaos of the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.
The current effort was inaugurated in 1992 and sent its first Shenzhou capsule into orbit in November, 1999. The next flight came in January, 2001, and a third capsule blasted off last March carrying a mannequin in a space suit. After it touched down in China's northern grassland, officials declared that the 10-day flight showed the drum-shaped capsule could keep human passengers alive.
The launch Monday was controlled from a base in the Chinese city of Xi'an and four tracking ships anchored in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans, Xinhua said.
Looking farther ahead, a leader of the Shenzhou IV launch imagined a future of space flight not just for a handful of astronauts but for China's vast masses.
"Like rich men overseas, everyday Chinese will be able to travel to space in the future," Yuan Jiajun, commander of the flight, was quoted as saying by the newspaper Beijing Youth Daily. "It will be like taking a public bus in the air."