Today is an exciting day for space exploration.
China successfully launched 3 astronauts into orbit for the country’s fifth and longest crewed mission since 2003.
The Shenzhou 10 spacecraft blasted off from the Gobi desert today on a 15-day journey to eventually dock with the orbiting space lab, Tiangong 1. There, the three astronauts will test docking capabilities and technologies needed for a future space station.
While China’s space accomplishments undoubtedly pale in comparison to the United States and Russia, its program is growing, and with the goals China has set for its space program, it’s bound to continue flourishing.
China has spent the last five decades expanding the program with a few key milestones, including launching a man and woman into space, performing a spacewalk, and completing a manned docking mission.
Recently, China announced plans to send an unmanned rocket to the moon in 2013; the hope is to eventually put a man on the moon, a feat only achieved by the U.S. in the late 60s and early 70s.
China’s progress in space mirrors the country’s growing financial and military strength, leaving some in the West concerned, especially considering that in some ways it has replaced the U.S. as a space superpower.
Following the 2011 closing of its space shuttle program, the U.S. has become dependent on Russia to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. This leaves Russia and China as the only two countries capable of independently sending humans into space.
Not counting the competition from companies like Boeing, Virgin Galactic, and Space X fighting to develop private sector spacecrafts.
In short, don’t rush to count China out of space exploration.