China has launched a second space vehicle into orbit, a crucial step in its ability to build a space station by 2020. The unmanned Shenzou 8 spacecraft, launched on Monday, will dock automatically with the space lab Tiangong 1 which has been circling the globe since late September. Unlike the U.S., China will attempt to unite the two craft without the use of a human pilot. That engineering feat is an ambitious goal, says Tim Robinson, editor of Aerospace International.
What’s the Big Idea?
The ability to dock spacecraft in orbit is crucial to the construction of a space station, an ambition which China hopes to realize by 2020. It is only the third country, behind the U.S. and Russia, to launch humans into orbit. Given America’s dominance in space, some feel threatened by China’s ambitions. Robert Bigelow, founder of Bigelow Aerospace, believes China will claim the moon as its territory in just 15 years. Bigelow blames the failure of America’s space ambition on its ballooning national debt and poor education programs.
I’m going to be frank with you: parts of the book are an exhausting experience. “Boring” is the wrong word, but this is not a “fun” classic nineteenth-century American novel. This is a feat of endurance, captain.