The following is an excerpt from an astrophysics assignment where the students had to apply astronomy to their major. I chose to write about The China National Space Administration. The paper was written in 2008.
While bigger and more powerful rockets became available through research, China began to reach outside its borders for international support. Russia, after meeting with President Jiang Zemin, agreed to trade manned spacecraft technology to China. Included in this 1995 deal were cosmonaut training, life support systems, and spacecraft capsules. Wu Jie and Li Qinglong, two Chinese taikonauts, started to train at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Russia. After graduation, Jie and Qinglong returned to China and began selection of a team of twelve Chinese astronauts.
In 1997, China deployed a variety of large-capacity communications satellites. This established that China was still a world power. In 1999, testing for manned spaceflight began. “Shenzhou,” the first prototype of China’s CZ-2F (or “Long March” spaceship), successfully launched through the atmosphere to orbit the Earth. The rocket that would be carrying taikonauts would weigh almost twice as much as “Shenzhou.”
Four years later, USA TODAY raved about the upcoming possibility of manned spaceflight. The US paper wrote, “A successful launch would stand as a trophy to China’s progress after two decades of economic reform. It would make this only the third nation — after Russia and the United States — capable of sending a human into space on its own.” The international community eyed communist China as it prepared its launch. On October 15th, 2003 (October 16th in the United States), “Shenzhou 5” lifted itself from the Gobi Desert into outer space. On it was taikonaut Yang Liwei, a Chinese fighter pilot. He orbited the Earth fourteen times over the course of 21 hours and then successfully returned to China. According to Muzi, a Chinese newspaper, “Chinese people beamed with pride on Thursday at the successful return of the country’s first man in space.” “Shenzhou 5” became a unifying moment of Chinese pride.
In 2005, China sent two more taikonauts, Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng, into space aboard the “Shenzhou 6.” “Shenzhou 6” orbited Earth for five days as Fei and Nie conducted “tests China says will improve its future space exploration efforts.” China uses these successes in a variety of ways. First, Chinese government officials hope that this pride in the CNSA would rally people to the communist party. Secondly–and to a point this has been a success–, China wants to increase their satellite launching business as a means to bolster their economy. Lastly, China hopes that continuous successes will maintain national interest in space exploration.