Japan and China Start Space Race
(RIA Novosti, by Andrei Fesyun) — Japan and China have started
their space race forty years after the USSR and the USA became
rivalries in the discovery of space.
clear when an updated N-2A rocket, of Japanese design and manufacture,
was successfully launched at the Tanegashima Island space center
in the Kagoshima prefecture, 1,200 kilometers southwest of Tokyo
on February 26.
launch was put off several times. The additional check of all
the spacecraft parts, a bad weather forecast, or sheer superstition
were the main reasons for the delays. A similar rocket and two
spy satellites were launched in November 2003 to watch North Korea.
But they deviated from the route ten minutes after the launch
and had to be destroyed by a ground-controlled device.
It was a painful
blow on the reputation of Japanese scientists as it happened just
a month after China made its first manned flight to challenge
its (still) more prosperous neighbor. Japan’s Aerospace Agency
was steeped in gloomy silence, while China’s authorities were
trumpeting far and wide the birth of another space power. Lieutenant-Colonel
Yang Liwei was named the nation’s hero a few hours after his landing.
Hundreds of thousands of jubilant Chinese greeted and cheered
him at the top of their voice.
would not give in. The new launch of the N-2A rocket was of pivotal
importance because it would define the future of the research
program. If the launch flopped as previously, the country would
lose its face and any opportunity to monitor the South Pacific
typhoons brewing, gaining strength, and moving to its coast. Now,
it has safely orbited a weather satellite, which replaced the
Sunflower 5 worn out last year. Previously, Japan used the US
satellite information for making weather forecasts.
its first rocket in 1970. Among other successful projects, the
Japanese scientists managed to launch a lunar survey probe. But,
on the whole, their theoretical researches were rather exotic.
Thus, two observatories were busy several days in search of extraterrestrial
life near the Hydra constellation, where a US astronomer came
upon radio waves in 1988, presumably artificial.
astronomical observatory in the Hyogo prefecture, proud possessor
of Japan’s largest telescope, and the Mizusawa astro-geodynamic
observatory in the Iwate prefecture were engaged in this progect.
The group of scientists led by Professor Mitsumi Fujishita was
searching the problem area with a radio telescope, while the scientists
at the Nishi-Harima were groping for a yellow star that presumably
had solar radiation near Hydra. If they were a success, it could
be proposed that there might be a planet resembling the Earth
and with livable conditions.
breakthroughs forced Japan to rehash its program, and shift the
stress to manned flights within the next twenty years. An especially
provocative challenge came from the neighbor as the Chinese top
announced a craft with two pilots would be orbited for five to
six days in September or October this year. If it is a success,
China is planning another manned flight for 2007, with a venture
into open space and docking experiments.
Japan is intending to launch lunar survey probes to the Venus
and the Mercury. However, many scientists advise to conduct some
successful conventional launches before starting this project.
approved program envisages creating a satellite network that would
warn of natural disasters before 2015. Holders of mobile phones
would be able to receive warning messages directly from the satellite.
By 2025, Japan hopes to set a space station at the Moon. In five
years, the scientists are planning to send a researcher robot,
and in ten years to deploy astronauts to the Moon for a long time.
is part of a long-term plan of our space research program to be
submitted to the government," Yoshifumi Inatani, Aerospace
Agency spokesman, said at a recent news conference.
made a noticeable reservation saying that they did not made a
final decision because the government had not allocated funds
for researches and was reducing financing of space programs.
allocations have been dwindling since 1999. This year’s Aerospace
Agency budget makes a mere 179 billion yen, roughly $1,700 million.
Experts leave their jobs, and space-related employment shrank
by an approximate 30 per cent within the four preceding years,
says Keiichi Tachikawa, the agency’s president.
Japanese economy is ranking the world’s second, and we cannot
afford a lag in the space efforts, with their transnational purport,"
he pointed out. The agency chief hopes, however, that the authorities
will understand the importance of space researches and allocate
necessary funds for the programs.
is allocating more funds for space projects than China, yet far
less than the United States. The NASA receives 16 billion dollars
annually. It is apt here to look back at the N-2A expenditures.
The successful launch cost 9,400 million yen, roughly $89 million,
as against a global average of $68 million, or 7 billion yen,
Japanese are carefully speaking about space partnership with China.
That prospect, however, appears too good to be true, in the view
of the recent anti-Japanese public outbreaks in several Chinese
cities, with vandalism and harsh words.
Tokyo is watching Beijing’s space ventures "attentively though
not closely," says Inatani. Japan firmly intends to launch
three N-2As within the next twelve months-one of these to orbit
a spy satellite to monitor North Korea and China.
China is anxious
to get to the Moon too. They have worked out the Zhang-ye "lunar
project," named after a legendary lunar traveler. The allocations
for the project amount to 1,400 million yuan, roughly $170 million.
It envisages several satellite launches for 2007, with a controlled
craft to land in the Moon three years after to get soil samples
and then come back to the Earth.
None of Chinese
has openly mentioned a space race with Japan. Today the difference
of the two countries’ economic might is still too significant.
Besides, Beijing always emphasizes the peaceful intention of its
space programs to refute US apprehensions of their military purport.
Japan traditionally relies on America that has included astronaut
Shoichi Noguchi in the Discovery crew. The launch is scheduled
for this June and the shuttle is to dock the International Space
Station. The Japanese astronaut and his colleagues are to make
three space walks. They are to replace some station components
and thoroughly examine the shuttle to get sure it is not damaged.
routine work, astronaut Noguchi is eager to give the world a firsthand
view of some intricacies of Japanese culture. He is planning to
demonstrate the art of origami, making folded paper figurines,
and cook curried rice in a microwave oven during the Earth-ISS