First Chinese space docking
November 4, 2011 5:18 AM   Subscribe

The Divine Craft docked with the Space Palace on Wednesday, and no one said anything! Cmon space fans, this is the first Chinese space kiss!
posted by Tom-B (55 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, that's it folks. We lost the Space Race to the Chinese. The only way your kids are going up into space now is as indentured labor to a Chinese multinational.
posted by mikelieman at 5:21 AM on November 4, 2011


Last time I asked if I could dock my Divine Craft in someone's Space Palace, I got a smack in the mouth. National Space Administration obviously uses a classier aftershave.
posted by Abiezer at 5:31 AM on November 4, 2011 [17 favorites]


Space is the new giant panda.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 5:33 AM on November 4, 2011


Maybe we can get some conservative support for space research NOW. Presumably they didn't slog through the swamps in 'Nam just to see China win the space race.

Actually, we should just tell them there are brown people with oil on the Moon.
posted by DU at 5:35 AM on November 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


Well, that's it folks. We lost the Space Race to the Chinese. The only way your kids are going up into space now is as indentured labor to a Chinese multinational.

What Space Race?
posted by IvoShandor at 5:35 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


no one said anything!

Uh... wow, that takes me back.

in all seriousness, while I understand it's a giant leap for the Chinese space program, we're talking thirty-five-year-old technology here.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:35 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


"'Tiangong, my lover, for the arrival of this moment - wait for me. I'm coming,' reads the poem at the end."

I bet he doesn't get another date. "Wait for me, I'm coming" - pig.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:36 AM on November 4, 2011


while I understand it's a giant leap for the Chinese space program, we're talking thirty-five-year-old technology here.

Remember when they said that about Japanese electronics and cars?
posted by DU at 5:40 AM on November 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


Mr President, we cannot allow a Magpie Bridge gap!
posted by Abiezer at 5:42 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


in all seriousness, while I understand it's a giant leap for the Chinese space program, we're talking thirty-five-year-old technology here.

Which is what we were flying into space until just recently.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:42 AM on November 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


I don't care who goes, but would someone please just land on the moon again before I'm dead. I've already given up on Mars in my lifetime and I'm not yet 30.
posted by Brodiggitty at 5:44 AM on November 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


talking thirty-five-year-old technology here.

Heck these are Soyuz based designs so it's closer to fifty year old technology but it's still better than what we got (which is nothing).
posted by octothorpe at 5:47 AM on November 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Has anyone ever been able to explain why the Chinese space agency played "America the Beautiful" when they launched the Sky Palace?
posted by aught at 6:03 AM on November 4, 2011


Some videos here of the docking (page is in Chinese but links should be obvious).
posted by Abiezer at 6:11 AM on November 4, 2011


The first docking was on Gemini 8 in 1966, so it's really 45 years.

Kind of amazing that this was done with that level of technology. And that only a few years later, in-orbit docking (around the moon) was a fundamental piece of the Apollo missions.
posted by smackfu at 6:12 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Has anyone ever been able to explain why the Chinese space agency played "America the Beautiful" when they launched the Sky Palace?

Much like the Star Spangled Banner, the original tune for "America the Beautiful" is from 月亮代表我的心
posted by drezdn at 6:17 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Let me know when they have the first space spanking.
posted by Mcable at 6:18 AM on November 4, 2011


Sure, it's old (for very contrained values of "old") technology, and the Shenzhou is pretty closely based on the Soyuz -- but frankly, from a safety and reliability standpoint, I would MUCH rather be piloting / riding a spacecraft that's based on mature and familiar technologies than fancy new bleeding edge tech. In the context of space travel, "old" means "we know it works" as opposed to "obsolete."
posted by a small part of the world at 6:21 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it's great for China, but it's a pretty basic demonstration of space technology. It's nice that they're able to do it, but get back to me when they're doing it between two manned ships in lunar orbit.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:23 AM on November 4, 2011


it's a pretty basic demonstration of space technology.

In that case, the US should have no trouble one-upping them. Right?
posted by DU at 6:26 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


it's still better than what we got (which is nothing).

Not entirely true.
posted by Mcable at 6:29 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


it's a pretty basic demonstration of space technology.

Context matters here. It's "basic" for the U.S., Russia, and . . . pretty much no one else.
posted by a small part of the world at 6:31 AM on November 4, 2011


Geez, I think some people are glad that the Shuttle program ended so they can make pithy potshots at the US.
posted by smackfu at 6:31 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


In that case, the US should have no trouble one-upping them. Right?

This comment makes no sense. The US is far from perfect with its space program, but they did the first docking back 1966 and have done literally hundreds since.

Again, it's cool that the Chinese are learning and making progress, but I thought their first spacewalks were more impressive.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:35 AM on November 4, 2011


we're talking thirty-five-year-old technology here

Actually, it's a lot older than that: we did this on Gemini 8 in 1966.
posted by tgrundke at 6:36 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


As to Gemini 8, that was Neil Armstrong's first flight in space and it almost ended in disaster when the docked ships started spinning out of control..

Technically speaking, this docking doesn't quite match that, as Gemini 8 was the first docking of a manned and unmanned ship. The Chinese have docked two unmanned ships in an automatic process. The Russians did the first automated docking in 1967 and then went on to do their first manned docking in 1969 after a failed attempted in 1968.

The US was supposed to do a manned docking on Gemini 6, but the target vehicle blew up on launch, so NASA decided to launch Gemini 7 instead and sent Gemini 6 up later to do the first space rendezvous. There was some talk at that time of doing a manned docking between Gemini 6 and 7, but the commanders were flatly against it, as they didn't feel the vehicles were up to the task on short notice.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:48 AM on November 4, 2011


Maybe we can get some conservative support for space research NOW. Presumably they didn't slog through the swamps in 'Nam just to see China win the space race.

Actually, we should just tell them there are brown people with oil on the Moon.
posted by DU at 5:35 AM on November 4 Other


This self-loathing is what kills America. What part of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon in 1969 don't you understand? They're still going into space, is that the point? We are too. How many robots has China landed on Mars? How many Chines space probes have visited four planets? How many independent Chinese companies are launching rockets? How many Chinese citizens have launched helium balloon 100,000 ft up?

This is copying. Do you understand that? The achievement is not in docking one ship with another, the achievement is doing that when no one else has done anything remotely like it before, and you have to work everything out yourself. The greatness of the achievement is a function of both the risk and the uncertainty.

The reason we don't go back to the moon is not because we can't, but because there's no point. We went there several times already. Presumably the advent of new materials, massively better rockets and computing power would allow us--or anyone else--the ability to land there reliably and predictably.

This is China's great new fighter plane. Notice how closely it resembles the F-22. This is because they looked at photos of the F-22 and copied it.

The first F-22 rolled off the production line in 1997. 14 years ago.

The Soviet Union was a threat because they were independently able to methodically invent, develop, and master technology completely independently of the United States. China can't do that.

China has been around for 5000 years. The United States had been around for less than 200 when it put a man on the moon. You say they are winning the space race because their third place finish was so distant that everyone forgot the race was won 4 decades ago?




How many thousands of years do you think will pass before China does something in space that no one else has done before?
posted by Pastabagel at 6:49 AM on November 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


Wow. I don't even know how to respond to that level of laurel-resting. If you want to stay ahead, you have to keep moving faster than the competition is all I'm saying. I can only refer you to what I said before.
posted by DU at 6:53 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it was the self loathing he was addressing.
posted by cavalier at 6:54 AM on November 4, 2011


If you want to stay ahead, you have to keep moving faster than the competition is all I'm saying.

Dude, space dockings are so common that before today they only made headlines when something went wrong. Like I said, it's cool that China is learning and good on them, but this is far from a huge feat. The US and Russia have been doing that and more for decades.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:58 AM on November 4, 2011


The first F-22 rolled off the production line in 1997.

Are you bragging about the F-22?
posted by drezdn at 7:02 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think the complaints about the US space program come out of self-loathing. For me, it's annoying that the US doesn't see it as a priority anymore to explore space. Sure, we may have done space dockings decades ago, but right now, Russia and China are better set to achieve goals more impressive than we ever achieved.
posted by drezdn at 7:04 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


And the fact that it's so well-understood and -explored means that it won't take decades for China to get to our current level of mastery. In other words, they are moving faster now than we were then. Are we ready for that?
posted by DU at 7:05 AM on November 4, 2011


The next man on the moon will be Chinese.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:05 AM on November 4, 2011


China has been around for 5000 years. The United States had been around for less than 200 when it put a man on the moon.

Is that seriously your argument? The US didn't invent space travel in a vacuum. Besides, it doesn't matter who does what first or even who engineered it. That's such a convoluted set of statements and patriotic rah rah that amounts to nothing.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 7:13 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


And the fact that it's so well-understood and -explored means that it won't take decades for China to get to our current level of mastery. In other words, they are moving faster now than we were then

NASA is revamping, building a new rocket to launch crew and cargo into deep space, while leaving low earth orbit for the commercial field. A return to the moon by the US astronauts is possible in the early 2020s, while China has tentative plans for a moon landing between 2025-30 (possibly with the Russians). Even if they do accomplish this before the US return, they'll still be second. Not a bad thing, but let's not pretend they're technologically superior because they came in second place, unless they do something really extraordinary with technology.

It'll be very interesting to see what the second nation on the Moon does and whether it's different and better than what was accomplished on Apollo. But it'll still be second.

What Space Race?

The Asian one.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:23 AM on November 4, 2011


This self-loathing is what kills America.

Alternatively, the freedom we have to be cynical about our government without being thrown in jail is one of the most precious rights we (for now) still have.
posted by aught at 7:24 AM on November 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


China has been around for 5000 years. The United States had been around for less than 200 when it put a man on the moon.

Be careful that the fable about the hare and tortoise doesn't bite you on the ass.
posted by aught at 7:26 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


How many thousands of years do you think will pass before China does something in space that no one else has done before?

My over/under for the Chinese Solar Power Satellites coming on-line is 100 years..
posted by mikelieman at 7:29 AM on November 4, 2011


The Soviet Union was a threat because they were independently able to methodically invent, develop, and master technology completely independently of the United States. China can't do that.
Actually, there's been some fantastic Chinese innovation in useful shit like hydro-power, medicine (a drug to fight malaria they managed to come up with during the Cultural Revolution) and agronomy, when those used to be the priorities. Now they're chucking cash at space travel, no doubt we'll see something there too. Or are you setting out your stall for some exciting race-based theory of technological advance?
posted by Abiezer at 7:35 AM on November 4, 2011


Space flight is hard.

Huge kudos to the Chinese engineers and scientists for a big achievement. No one should underestimate the Chinese technologists and believe that they cannot innovate for themselves.

Because space flight is hard, look for partnership to develop with China, much as the US and USSR agreed to work together on the ISS and other low orbit stuff.

Tight economic integration on Earth will lead to tight integration in space exploration.
posted by Argyle at 7:38 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


How many thousands of years do you think will pass before China does something in space that no one else has done before?

At a guess within 1/50th of a millenium---20 years---perhaps sooner.

People used to say the same shit about Japan in the 60's. Then Honda and Toyota killed the US domestic car industry.

Chysler and GM exist now only because of congressional necromancy. Ford might have survived on its own.
posted by bonehead at 8:11 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


There is a little difference between the US domestic car industry, Japan dominating it and China's space program.

A lot of people are arguing "Well, look what Japan did, THIS IS A SIGN, OMG THE US NEEDS TO FIX ITS SPACE PROGRAM." There's no actual facts, but lots of emotion and what ifs, with a dash of fear mongering.

If someone here is a pre-cog, by all means, lets hear it. But postulating Chinese dominance of space after one simple docking is bit premature.

Also, if you're a pre-cog, hit me up by email, I have some other questions
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:17 AM on November 4, 2011


Hey, the Chinese have already set records in space -- for instance they are credited with the largest single release of space debris in orbit.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:20 AM on November 4, 2011


This self-loathing is what kills America.

Well now, to be fair, this wouldn't be such an issue if America wasn't so methodically loathsome in many fields.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:35 AM on November 4, 2011


America, love it or hop a ride in 500 day simulation, you pinko commie!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:55 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is a little difference between the US domestic car industry, Japan dominating it and China's space program.

Less than you might suppose. Both require big armies of industrial workers, technical folks and engineers.

Blindness is what almost killed the US car industry. Japan and now Korea spent two or three decades figuring out how to build cars most of the world, and as it turned out many US customers, wanted. Their first cars were crap, horrible rust boxes, but they got better. They didn't take their eye off the prize. The US industry, by contrast, allowed their costs to get out of hand and decided to innovate on image and style rather than quality or engineering.

This is China's first crappy car. They're about 10 years into the engineering effort. Hence, twenty, maybe even ten years from now, they'll be state of the art. China's leadership knows this, is planning this. They're mostly engineers themselves.
posted by bonehead at 8:56 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let's start thinking in terms of decades/centuries, and what kind of world our kids and grandkids get inherit.

There's only ONE PLACE where energy comes from. That's the Sun. And optimizing the collection of that energy will take us past this reliance on digging it's intermediate stages out of the ground and burning them.

At *some point* a nation will extract a decisive financial benefit from moving energy collection to GEO, and just beaming back the energy. Once you make the initial investment, the energy keeps coming and coming and coming. The people who still dig it out of the ground and burn it CANNOT compete against that. It's a long term investment, and the payoff is LITERALLY the Universe. Everyone else will be just left behind.

Do you want your kids to be leading that wave, or be stuck here forever?

Economic Development. It's called a space program with clear goals.
posted by mikelieman at 9:06 AM on November 4, 2011


There's only ONE PLACE where energy comes from.

What's all this geothermal stuff I keep hearing about?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:11 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's only ONE PLACE where energy comes from.

Yeah it's not like we can split atoms or anything fancy like that.
posted by Authorized User at 9:14 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


We lost the Space Race to the Chinese

What do you mean by "we"?
posted by KokuRyu at 9:21 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Huge kudos to the Chinese engineers and scientists for a big achievement

This and much more. Congratulations!

(What the hell is going on in this thread? It feels like the Cold War in here.)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:21 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


What the hell is going on in this thread?

Nerd Battle for the Future, Part xIV
Rise of the Phantom Menace
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:58 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Abiezer, I hadn't heard of the malaria drug before. Thank you for the link!
posted by of strange foe at 10:12 AM on November 4, 2011


The geothermal and radiological processes which are the end result of stellar ( and subsequently planetary ) formation?
posted by mikelieman at 10:28 AM on November 4, 2011


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