OT : China takes aim at the space station

A new test flight of China's manned spacecraft, the Shenzhou, is expected soon, Western experts say — and the ultimate destination for future manned flights of that vehicle may be the international space station

BEFORE THE REALIGNMENT of world diplomacy that followed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, China's participation in the $60 billion-plus international space station was generally considered a preposterous idea. The space alliance of the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan, Brazil and 11 European nations seemed to have no room for a country whose internal human rights record didn't meet their standards.

But as with so many other assumptions about international politics, this one too is now being questioned. Both through face-to-face negotiations, and through the space testing of impressive new hardware, China seems to be knocking on the door of the orbital outpost.

On Oct. 20, Chinese space experts announced that a new "CZ-2F" rocket had passed flight qualification at the factory in Beijing. It will shortly be sent by rail to a secret spaceport in Inner Mongolia, where Chinese engineers are preparing a third test flight of their Shenzhou space vehicle. The unmanned mission will mark one more advance towards China's near-term goal of putting its own astronauts into space.

News source: msnbc.com

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