Better not be claustrophobic
"this week’s crew will have to make do with Tianhe, the Tianzhou-2 cargo module and their own craft "
That's going to feel mighty cramped for a 3-month stay.
China will on Thursday launch a crew of three on a mission to start assembling the nation’s first space station. It's China's seventh crewed mission in 18 years. State-run media has named the three taikonauts as Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo. Nie will command the mission and make his third journey into space. The …
This news actually made me feel a bit uncomfortable. Although China's progress in space has been extraordinary recently there have been quite a few dramatic failures plus the suspicion of others that have been covered up. (the sudden switches between very public announcements and then silence feeds this narrative whether it is actually true or not)
This is an exceptionally adventurous programme of long duration crewed flights and high risk crew activities which feels to me that they are jumping straight into rather than working up to more incrementally.
I really hope I'm wrong about this and that it is a great success but my first feeling on reading this article was fear that this could be leading to more traumatic news later on.
On the other hand, no space programme is cast in stone and this is just an announcement (so an element or PR is involved) and subsequent missions can obviously be delayed or adjusted if necessary. And perhaps this is also a marker of fully justified self-confidence from China's space agency - it is entirely possible that the secrecy can work both ways and the successes and milestones that would normally be expected prior to such an ambitious programme have occurred but not been publicised so much.
Yes, that is true. My original post was more about my first reaction (hence saying "feel" a lot), rather then a thoughtful (albeit armchair) analysis, and I'm not really sure what the driver was for that.
I didn't live through the space race which is perhaps the most obvious comparison in terms of overall speed and where each step was also substantial increase in complexity and risk.
I did live through the Shuttle era where the disasters were a complete shock, to the public at least.
Perhaps it is just because there do seem to have been quite a few mishaps (uncontrolled re-entries of both the prior station and boosters, various development and production explosions and the image of their first astronaut looking like he'd been beaten up) but, actually as you say, these have occurred over nearly two decades of the programme so perhaps this is indeed a reasonable pace.
The Chinese are going it alone because they are prohibited by law (US law, of course) in participating in the ISS. That said, they probably aren't 100% do-it-yourself, they could probably draw on quite extensive Russian experience in space.
Reports of Chinese activities are invariably coloured by the drip-drip of propaganda in our media that shapes people's attitudes. There's an unwritten assumption that they either lack the resources, the know-how or are slapdash in their approach to technology and that everything is a propaganda vehicle. If you're old enough you'll recognize this, its exactly the same line that was taken with the Russians back in the 1950s. This kind of thing might play well with the home audiences but its not really cutting it for the world at large these days.
(PS -- I was horrified by the Shuttle. Its living proof that you can get anything into orbit if you put a big enough rocket motor on it but it always struck me as a lash up, an accident waiting to happen. I was so pleased when they retired the thing.)
The Chinese space program is progressing far beyond the expectations of the US who have done their best to suppress it. They now have rovers on the Moon and Mars and, if all goes well, a manned space station in Earth orbit.
I don't have to like their politics to appreciate their science. I wish the yuhangyuans (space navigators, although my plural is probably wrong) a bon voyage.