China spacecraft launched, space station and manned lunar missions planned

China successfully launched the Shenzhou VII spacecraft today, in the country's third manned space mission in five years. Snip from New York Times article:

The three-day mission is part of Project 921, China’s ambitious manned space program, and was expected to include the country’s first attempt at a space walk, which would make China only the third country to accomplish the feat, after Russia and the United States.

The Chinese government has spent billions of dollars in recent years building up a space program that it hopes will establish a space station by 2020 and eventually put a man on the moon.

China Launches Space Walk Mission (NYT), and the Wikipedia article for Shenzhou V11 has lots of details. Or, go straight to China's state-run news agency Xinhua's Shenzhou VII coverage. Among the Xinhua articles is one celebrating the spread of the neologism "taikonaut"...

The word is a hybrid of the Chinese term "taikong" (space) and the Greek "naut" (traveler), or astronaut, according to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary. Another variation on the term is "cosmonaut", coined during the Soviet space era.

"Taikonauts" a sign of China's growing global influence (


  1. There’s no sign of a space race, alas.

    China is where the US was at the start of the Gemini program, 45 years ago. And where Gemini was flying every few weeks, Shenzhou is flying only every few years.

  2. It would be nice if this re-ignited the US’s interest in resuming moon missions or planning a manned mission to Mars. The Chinese seem to have no doubt that this is a crowded planet and our future lies in space.

  3. Hmmm. Cool. Wonder what their game plan is, beyond willy-waving. Off-world power generation? Orbital colonies? Pure exploration? I guess space exploration doesn’t really need a why – you just do it because it’s there. But I do wonder what the Chinese want to get out of it.

  4. you know, $700 bn would buy a nice space programme

    in fact you could fund NASA for 40 years with that money (NASAs 2008 budget is $17.3 bn )

    Or imagine spending it all in one go on something really huge and imaginative, ooh what shall we get? Something really exciting and worthwhile eh?

  5. The novel I’m finishing up involves a backdrop with taikonauts and a manned Chinese Moon shot. Nice to know my sci-fi is closer to sci-fact, if off by a few years.

  6. Funny that NEW CHINA posted about the success of the mission HOURS before the spacecraft has been launched!! ^_^

  7. After watching the amazing Olympics opening and closing ceremonies, I wouldn’t be surprised at anything China accomplishes. Beautiful, stunning, amazing can’t even begin to describe what they did there. I have to admit I’m worried about future US and China relations, but why put down something they do solely in the name of science? Any progress in man’s initiative to build a working space program has to be a good thing.

  8. It seems that the launch was so successful that the Chinese announced the success before it actually happened.,23599,24406028-2,00.html

    The launch story had great details:

    The firm voice of the controller broke the silence of the whole ship. Now, the target is captured 12 seconds ahead of the predicted time …

    “Ten minutes later, the ship disappears below the horizon. Warm clapping and excited cheering breaks the night sky, echoing across the silent Pacific Ocean.”

    And China wondered why their coverage of the Olympic torch on Everest was greeted with such scepticism …


  9. #12: To be fair and accurate, someone within the Xinhua News Agency’s website branch accidentally announced the success before it actually happened. How far up the chain the decision to create the article before it happened was made is unknown and probably very hard to find out. I doubt there would have been more than a few dozen people complicit in it.

    So, saying “the Chinese announced the success before it actually happened” is not significantly more precise than saying “the human race announced the success before it actually happened”.

  10. #13 Kieran O’Neill–To be fair and accurate, how did this accidental announcement include such detailed descriptions and dialog? (quoted in the article you cite)

  11. If the launch goes as planned, why wait until after the launch to write the article? If you’ve done the research necessary for the article why not write it before the launch, rather than try to feverishly write after lift-off? Do science journalists wait until a news embargo is lifted to put hand to keyboard? Do newspapers typically wait for famous people to breath their last before writing their obituaries?

    I don’t love the Chinese government, but it just looks like sloppy timing with the news agency rather than sinister media control, this time.

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