By Li Hongmei, Speical to Sina English
At 6:37 pm on the evening of June 16, China's Shenzhou-9 space craft blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, carrying with it the country's first female astronaut, Liu Yang, gearing up to perform its first-ever manned space docking Monday (June 18), a feat that would put it in the company of history's two greatest spacefaring nations, the United States and Russia.
The mission is part of China's three-step space exploration program, which includes building a 60-ton permanent manned space station by 2020 and ultimately landing a Chinese astronaut on the moon.
The galloping development of China’s space program has, again, raised eyebrows of some foreign experts and media that it might have military purposes.
Australian space expert Des Ball wrote that the electronic systems of the Shenzhou spacecraft would be able to keep track of US Navy ships operating in the western Pacific and Indian Oceans.
"Intercepts of electronic emissions by Shenzhou-4 during the war in Iraq in March-April 2003 would have been an intelligence windfall for the Chinese," Ball wrote.
Some foreign media also speculated that in constructing a new space station, China would be able to develop skills in long-distance remote control and data transmission technologies, which would provide a boost to the country's ballistic missile and anti-satellite capabilities.
Zhou Jianping, the chief designer of China's manned space engineering project, however, has assured the international community that China will never be involved in space warfare.
“China's growing space program is a peace-seeking enterprise and has no military purposes,” said Zhou Jianping.
Further, Zhou pointed that China's spending on space programs is dwarfed by that of the US. The American space program has been around for 50 years and NASA has invested roughly US$15 billion every year. Comparatively, China's 20-year-old space program has spent less than US$5 billion in total.
In addition, China's space technology remains significantly behind that of the US and Russia, and for the moment China is more focused on looking for advancements and breakthroughs in their own technologies.
Then what is the brazen logic by enshrouding doubts over China’s peace-seeking space exploration-Isn’t it that “one may steal a horse, while another may not look over the hedge?
What’s your undue worry perched on, though?