On the Fourth Manned Mission the Chinese Dock to their soon to be Space Station

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 17th, 2012

Week in Review

There are two space stations.  One international.  And one Chinese (see Shenzhou-9 docks with Tiangong-1 by Jonathan Amos posted 6/18/2012 on BBC News).

China’s Shenzhou-9 capsule, with its crew of three, has docked with the Tiangong-1 space lab…

It is China’s fourth manned mission and another opportunity to see how far the Asian nation has developed its space technology…

The lab is a prototype for the type of modules the nation hopes to join in orbit later this decade to form a permanently manned space station.

At about 60 tonnes in mass, this proposed station would be considerably smaller than the 400-tonne international platform operated by the US, Russia, Europe, Canada and Japan, but its mere presence in the sky would nonetheless represent a remarkable achievement.

Remarkable indeed.  But what does it mean?  No room at the International Space Station for the Chinese?  Or do the Chinese just want to conduct their experiments in secret?  And if so, why?  Or is it just national pride?  To show that Chinese technology is among the best in the world?  Whatever the reason one thing is for sure.  It’s getting crowded in space. 

Space programs are expensive.  That’s why we cancelled the last Apollo moon missions.  And the Space Shuttle program.  We joined the International Space Station to share resources.  And costs.  Will the Chinese, too, suffer budget shortfalls and have to scale back their space program?  Or will they give up buying U.S. bonds to plug their budget holes?

There’s a woman onboard this mission.  Which is almost as remarkable as is this space achievement.  For they may discriminate against women in the womb.  But if they make it out of the womb a woman clearly has the same opportunities a man has.  Considering a lot of astronauts/cosmonauts are old ex-fighter pilots with combat experience (in the early days of manned space flight, at least) it says a lot that a young woman was on the 4th manned mission.  Then again, the communists are progressives.

Let’s hope that the Chinese come to space like everyone else.  In peace.

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Dragon docks at ISS after Flawless Launch by Private Company SpaceX

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 3rd, 2012

Week in Review

Space.  The final frontier.  Once the purview of government space programs.  Now in the hands of the private sector (see ‘Feels a bit like a sci-fi film set’: ISS astronaut reacts to entering the SpaceX Dragon by Associated Press posted 5/29/2012 on the Daily Mail).

As the ISS crew floated into the Dragon on Saturday – a day after its heralded arrival as the world’s first commercial supply ship – one astronaut took to his blog to describe the historic milestone…

‘This is the first time that a commercial spacecraft has flown to the ISS and docked with the Station. You could say a new era of spaceflight has begun. Soon private companies will take people to and from space.’

Meanwhile, NASA astronaut Pettit said it reminded him of the cargo capability of his pickup truck back home in Houston.

‘The smell inside smells like a brand new car,’ Pettit reported. The compartment was brilliantly white and, he noted; clean, no dirt or other particles appeared to be floating around…

The California-based SpaceX – formally Space Exploration Technologies Corp. – is the first private company to send a vessel to the space station.

NASA is handing over orbital delivery work to American business in order to focus on bigger and better objectives, such as getting astronauts to asteroids and Mars.

The space agency hopes astronaut ferry trips will follow soon; SpaceX contends its Dragons could be carrying space station astronauts up and down within three or four years…

Until now, only major governments have launched cargo ships to the space station. Russia, Japan and Europe will keep providing supplies, and Russia will continue to sell rocket rides to U.S. astronauts until SpaceX or other companies are ready to take over. Several American companies are competing for the honor.

I guess the International Space Station (ISS) has lost that new car smell.  And based on his description of the Dragon commercial spacecraft I’m guessing the Russian supply spacecrafts are not quite reminiscent of opening the door on a new car.  Or very clean.

Yeah, that’s why NASA is handing over the mundane work of resupplying the ISS to American business.  So they can focus on bigger and better things.  Right.  Perhaps they should let American business handle that, too.  For as amazing as the Space Shuttle was it was an abject failure.  The reusable shuttle was supposed to earn money.  That’s why they made it reusable.  It was going to be like a truck on the highway.  Zipping all over the place and delivering revenue-earning cargo.  But they could never fly the thing enough in a year to turn a profit.  And it was just too costly per mission.  It was a black hole in the federal budget.  That’s why they retired it without having anything to replace it.  Relying on the Russians to keep the ISS in orbit.  Who were using the same rocket platform they were using when we were using the Saturn V to put men on the moon.  Because that technology still works.  And costs less to put them up into orbit than it did launching a Space Shuttle.

This is a testament to the power of capitalism.  Where a person can dream.  Pour money into that dream.  And reap the benefits of success.  The space program has now been handed off to capitalism.  And the private sector.  Thanks to the success of SpaceX.  Who may have a better chance than NASA these days of boldly going where no person has gone before.

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