Shenzhou-3 orbited the Earth 108 times, and successfully landed on the targeted site in inner Mongolia: the Chinese space program is developing.
The 47th congress of the International Federation of Astronautics that took place six years ago in Beijing was remarkable for the large number of cosmonauts who participated. There was even an Austrian there, but the country who organized the forum, the third country on the rating of space explorers, was not represented. This can partially be explained with the third position on the rating.
A Czech, Austrian, Bulgarian, or a Dutch citizen is not entitled to give the command “Go!” like Yury Gagarin did if they are only guests on the Russian Soyuz station or American Shuttle. China will not agree to put its citizens on a foreign spaceship, as it must launch its own space vehicle from its own cosmodrome. Mao Tse-tung was passionate about this idea. Here is an interesting detail from his unpublished “Moscow speech” that was delivered to Chinese students studying in Russia. Mao Tse-tung mentioned the fact of the recent Soviet launch of the first ever satellite, weighing 70 kilos; then he turned to the Chinese ambassador and asked him: “Do you weigh 70 kilos, ambassador Liu Xiao? “A bit less than that,” – was the answer. “There you see! The Soviet Union can launch ambassador Liu Xiao into space! America cannot do it so far.”
Was it only the wish of socialist propaganda in those words? That speech was delivered on November 15, 1957, and the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China authorized its rocket production program a year before that, in October of 1956 (on Mao Tse-tung’s initiative). The specialized Fifth Institute of the Defense Ministry was established for that purpose. Two years ago, in October of 1955, Beijing received a person with the reputation of the “Chinese Korolev” – Qian Xuesen, who came to China from the USA, where he had settled after graduating from Shanghai university, so it would be better to call him "Chinese von Broun." Xuesen continued his studies at California Technical University, having obtained a Doctor of Astronautics degree, and, as the say, the title of US Air Force colonel. He then was employed at a US Air Force rocket engine lab and succeeded there. In the summer of 1950, he made an attempt to move to Beijing. FBI agents caught him and his wife at the airport of Los Angeles, as well as luggage that contained 896 pounds of books and records. Xuesen was released only after five years only, after the “quarantine” during which he was not allowed access to the secret information. Xuesen became the supervisor of the research works in the field, but the Chinese spaceships of the Shenzhou type looked like the Russian Soyuz, specialists say.
At the same time, when the Chinese von Broun managed to reach China, there were other bearers of fresher secrets there – from the country, which could “launch ambassador Liu Xiao into space.” The Chinese students who graduated from Russian universities and Soviet experts of nuclear and missile technologies. The “elder brother” (the Chinese people used to call the Soviet Union this) was not against helping the “younger brother” in the field of modernization.
By the time of Mao Tse-tung’s “Moscow speech,” the Chinese were actively searching for a site for their rocket range. The committee of the competent departments prepared seven variants with the help of Soviet experts. The choice was made for a site in the Gobi Desert. The construction of the Jiuquan cosmodrome was started there; it was put into operation at the end of 1958. China’s three (unmanned) spaceships were launched into space from there:
Shenzhou-1 was launched on November 20, 1999; it stayed in the orbit for about 24 hours, having orbited the Earth 14 times.
Shenzhou-2 blasted off on January 10, 2001, staying about a week in the orbit, having flown 108 times around the planet.
Shenzhou-3 (blasted off on March 25) stayed in space for the same period of time, with the same number of circuits around the Earth.
The current goal is to examine the module and its contents (like in the first two cases). However, it is evident now that China has reliable rocket systems; it has mastered the art of space navigation and soft landing of a spaceship. China knows how to build its own spaceships, and there are people who can become cosmonauts. Their training is in full swing (Russia is reportedly participating). As China’s experts believe, there should be at least four test unmanned flights performed before they can launch a man into space.
Therefore, the "Chinese Gagarin" will probably say “Go!” no later than 2005. China is also working on programs for Chinese cosmonauts to fly to the Moon, as well as a space station.
Andrey Krushinsky PRAVDA.Ru Beijing
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov