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China's long march to space superpower – Axios



China is pushing deeper into space, but its human spaceflight goals do not directly compete with the U.S.

Why it matters: Much of the dialogue around the U.S. and China's orbital ambitions calls me a new space race. Rather, Chinese and U.S. interests – especially when it comes to human spaceflight – run parallel to one another. If the world's two major economies and science and technology leaders were to collaborate, it could open up new avenues for space exploration.

  • If China is "racing" anyone, it's likely other Asian nations such as Japan and India, Dean Cheng, a Space analyst focuses on China at the Heritage Foundation, tells Axios.
  • "Also, any such competition is more along marathon lines than a sprint," he says.

The big picture: The cold war-space space race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union eventually yielded Russia as one of America's closest allies on the orbit. The Chinese government is interested in collaborating internationally, but U.S.

What's happening: An analyst tells Axios that China has consistently followed through its space ambition, lending credibility to its future goals.

  • China operates satellites focused on remote sensing, communications and navigation.
  • It is building small satellites, maintaining launcher sites and exploring deep space. with the Chang'e-4 lander and Yutu-2 rover on the far side of the moon.
  • China's space program suffered a setback in 2017 when one of the country's Long March 5 boosters failed. But this rocket is expected to return to flight this summer.

China has publicly maintained that its goals in space are peaceful. However, the nation's military is also working towards shoring up its capabilities in space, driving the U.S. to take stock of its own orbital defenses.

  • According to outside analysts, China is developing its anti-satellite systems, but it is not clear if they are designed as offensive measures or deterrents

China's space plans have not been subject to the same political whisper that NASA has made, which has worked for the country's benefit.

  • Space development is part of China's overarching desire to develop its own technology and project power. Both the civilian and military space endeavors are seen as one part of a larger puzzle.

What's next: China's long-term vision for space exploration, however, is murky.

  • The Chinese plan to construct a space station in the orbit by 2022.
  • While NASA has a clear desire to land humans on Mars in the 2030s, which it says is driving exploration of the Moon, China does not have a According to Xinhua, the closest China seems to have this kind of mission is the desire to build a moon base on the south pole.

"It's not clear that there is a 'ultimate' goal for Chinese space efforts."

– Dean Cheng, Heritage Foundation


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