BEIJING, Oct. 15 (Xinhuanet) -- China has become the third nation in the world to send men into space, following the United States and the former Soviet Union, and subsequently joined the world's space club.
How do Chinese scientists think about the nation's presence in the club now with six members, namely the United States, Russia, Japan, India and the Europe Space Agency?
By the end of 2004, more than 5,700 space missions, including manmade satellites, piloted spacecraft and deep space explorers, had been launched around the world. Of the total, 3,192 came from the former Soviet Union and Russia, 1,782 from the United States, 104 from Japan and 48 from the Europe Space Agency (excluding those launched by France, Germany and Britain independently).
As the 21st century begins, space technology has increasingly symbolized the overall strength of a country, said Zhu Yilin, academician of the International Aerospace of Astronautics.
Both developed and developing nations have attached importance to space exploration, Zhu added. In recent few years, Brazil, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Pakistan and Israel launched their own space programs. Other nations with their space activities based on purchased satellites numbered nearly 70, and those beginning to use space technology, more than 160.
Zhu said China has become the world's only third nation to send men in space. Though in its infancy, China's manned space program has outperformed Russia's space series currently in service in terms of various technologies.
In the research and application of rockets and satellites, members of the world's space club have their respective advantages, Zhu said. China boasts carrier rockets each with a boosting capacity of 10 tons or so and satellites for a full range of purposes.
Zhu noted Chinese satellites are a bit outdid by those made in the Europe Space Agency in terms of service life, accuracy and other properties. Generally they are equivalent to Japanese satellites and a little more advanced than those made by India.
As for deep space exploration, China plans to land an unmanned probe on the Moon by 2010, likely becoming the fifth nation to launch a lunar explorer in the world, Zhu said.
China has powerful ability in space technology research, with a world-class force of related scientists, said Hu Wenrui, academician of the International Academy of Astronautics and Chinese Academy of Science.
With help of Shenzhou series, China has completed initial space scientific experiments in a systematic manner. They are all pioneering programs and hotspots in the world, involving space astronomy, space physics, life science, microgravity studies and Earth system, noted Hu Wenrui. Hu cited a moderate-definition imaging spectrum device that was tested aboard the Shenzhou-3 unmanned spacecraft. He said the device has met the world-class criteria.
Unlike the United States and Russia whose space experiments have been carried out for more than four decades, China started late in this field. So China has to boost the development of the sector in a selective way, Hu pointed out. In the coming five years, China will narrow the gap with the two space powers, Hu believed.
Of the two space powers, Zhu Yilin said, the United States annually pumped 30 billion US dollars in space programs on average, or 80 percent of the world's total.
Russia boasts a number of world's "firsts" in space exploration, including the first manned satellites, first manned space flight and the first space walk. Along with an economic resurrection, Russia plans to carry out two unmanned Mars probes before 2015, Zhu said.
With a history of 30 years, the Europe Space Agency, constituted by 17 European nations, now ranks third in the world's space club. Its annual input in space programs averages 3.8 billion US dollars, next only to the United States.
Zhu deemed that in the current space exploration spree, some emerging countries, such as Brazil, ROK and Israel, also merit attention. Enditem