Friday April 3, 2020


June 27, 2013

On Wednesday morning, three Chinese astronauts landed in Inner Mongolia after completing a fifteen-day space mission. This mission, on the Shenzhou-10 (“Sacred Vessel”) space shuttle, was China’s fifth, and longest, manned space mission.

Astronaut Zhang Xiaoguang said of the mission, “We are dreamers, and we have now fulfilled our dream…Our space dream knows no boundary, and our hard work will never cease”

The Shenzhou-10 launched on June 11 and docked with the Tiangong-1 (“Heavenly Palace”) space station on June 13. The Tiangong-1 is a test space station located in low Earth orbit. It is a temporary station designed for experiments and training in preparation for a future permanent space station.

The crew of the Shenzhou-10 completed an automatic docking procedure on June 11 then successfully manually docked the shuttle, after manually separating from the space station, on June 23. According to Chinese media, “China is the third country after the United States and Russia to acquire the technologies and skills necessary for space rendezvous and docking procedures, as well as supply manpower and materials for an orbiting module via different docking methods.”

During the mission, Wang Yaping, the second Chinese woman in space, taught a science lesson via video link and answered questions submitted by students. She showed the effects of zero gravity on water by drinking a floating drop of water, and on her strength, by pushing a fellow astronaut into the wall with only a finger tap. More than 60 million Chinese students tuned-in to the CCTV broadcast to watch the lecture.

President Xi Chats with Astronauts

China’s Space Program

On June 24, Chinese President Xi Jinping conducted a video chat with the astronauts. During their conversation, Xi said, “The space dream is part of the dream to make China stronger. With the development of space programs, the Chinese people will take bigger strides to explore further into the space”

Xi Jinping’s statement links the Shenzhou-10 mission, and China’s space program in general, to Chinese pride and progress. He even drew parallels to the China Dream, a phrase repeatedly used by the new leadership. China’s successes in outer space are seen as a symbol of China’s advancement and of catching up to superpowers like the U.S.

This attitude has provided a strong political will in China to fund and develop its ambitious space program. China completed its first manned space flight in 2003, its first space walk in 2008, and is already working towards having a permanent manned space station completed in 2020. China is also preparing to launch its first moon rover, Chang’e-3, in late 2013.

Although China is still playing catch-up to the U.S. and Russia, its space program is well planned out and systematic. China’s willingness to fund new space programs and its persistence in achieving these goals will give China an advantage moving forward.

Space, the U.S., and China

China’s manned space program director, Wang Zhaoyao, noted, “As we celebrate our success, we also realize the fact that there is still a very large gap between China and the leading space countries in terms of manned space technology and capability.” While China is making significant progress on its own, American assistance would have a huge impact.

Currently, however, China is going it alone. For example, China is not a member of the International Space Station project, instead having to create its own temporary space station, the Tiangong-1, for training and experiments.

NASA is not permitted to work with China’s space program due to fears of unwanted technology transfer. The U.S. Congress has passed stringent legislation restricting NASA’s interactions with China. There are added security concerns in the U.S. because the People’s Liberation Army runs China’s space program and remains ambiguous about the military goals of its space aspirations.

Some experts feel that cooperation, if not collaboration, is going to be necessary for the future of space exploration. Mike Wall, senior writer for Space, said, “Space is a big place and it’s expensive to explore it. And if we’re going to actually explore space as a species and push out into the solar system, it’s not like there’s just one country that’s going to be able to do it effectively.”

For more information about China’s manned space mission, see the following news articles:

Xinhua– “China’s Shenzhou-10 mission successful

DNA India– “Chinese astronauts succeed in manual docking with space lab

Slate– “A Chinese Palace Crosses the Sun

CNN– “China flexes its space muscles with lesson in zero gravity

Discovery– “Taikonaut Teaches Science on China’s Space Station

Space– “China Readying 1st Moon Rover for Launch This Year

The Economic Times– “China poised for bigger strides in space exploration: Xi Jinping

Voice of America– “Could US Work with China on Space Issues?

USA Today– “China revels in success of its longest space mission

Xinhua– “Procedure of China’s Shenzhou-10 spacecraft’s return to earth

For Chinese language news on China’s space program, see the articles below:

Red Net (红网)-茶陵县解放学校组织学生观看神十航天员太空授课

China News Agency (中国新闻网)- 阿木古郎草原迎接神舟十号飞天归来

Xinhua (新华网)– “习近平与航天员通话

Guangming Daily (光明网)-天宫一号与神舟十号载人飞行任务取得圆满成功

China News Agency (中国新闻网)– “邓一兵:对为他国培训航天员持积极态度

Xinhua (新华网)– “航天员训练中心:聂海胜太空授课时测出的质量与实际体重基本相符

Compiled and edited by Ariane Rosen