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Space City Shanghai

Shanghai plans ‘space city’

Shanghai plans to build a major research facility to assist China’s ambitious astronaut program state media said.

The astronaut program includes a space walk within the next few years.
The country’s largest city will invest more than one billion yuan ($158.35 million) in the research facility, the China News Service reported, quoting Yuan Jie, director of the Shanghai Aerospace Bureau.

The project has entered the initial stages and will be completed within three years, Yuan was quoted as saying.

Unfortunately, the article doesn’t give any further information as to what the Shanghai facility is intended to be used for — or indeed whether the research facility is even formally part of the Chinese space program, or just some sort of economic development gimmick designed to capture a share of the “tens of thousands of scientific, manufacturing and planning personnel in more than 3000 factories.”

What’s interesting to note here is the plans for future manned Shenzhou flights. While the Chinese program appears to be leaping forward at a less than glacial pace, each of their planned flights seems to be recapitulating achievements that took the US and Soviet programs many flights to accomplish…each planned flight demonstrating significant new capabilities rather than making cautious, incremental expansions. If all goes as described in the article, by Shenzhou-8 China will have demonstrated the major capabilities developed in the US via the Mercury and Gemini programs — manned orbital spaceflight, extended stays in orbit, spacewalks, and rendezvous and docking. And given other information about the “orbital cabin” portion of the Shenzhou spacecraft, they seem likely to also try their hands at modular space stations, skipping the Skylab/Salyut period and jumping directly to a Mir/ISS approach. It’s easy to dismiss the Chinese program as slow or motivated by a nationalistic “us too!” wannabe-ism, but they may be showing that they have learned the right lessons of how and how not to do space exploration from the US and Soviet/Russian experiences.

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