Ep. 706: China’s Space Program

We’re so familiar with NASA’s exploration efforts in space, but you might be surprised to learn that China launches almost as many rockets as the US. They’ve got their own space exploration program that could soon bring humans to the surface of the Moon. Let’s give a brief overview of China’s space exploration plans.


(This is an automatically generated transcript)

Fraser Cain [00:01:42] Astronomy cast. Episode 706 China’s Space Program. Welcome to Astronomy Cast for weekly fact space journey to the cosmos, where we help you understand not only what we know, but how we know what we know. I’m Fraser Cain, I’m the publisher of university. With me, as always, is Doctor Pamela Gay, a senior scientist for the planetary sciences. Stewart, and the director of Cosmo Quest. Hey, Pam. How are you doing? 

Pamela Gay [00:02:03] I am doing well. I am, happy to be back from vacation. And I’m reminded of why people go on vacations and highly recommend doing this. Yes, at least once a decade. 

Fraser Cain [00:02:16] So you often have name dropped doctor Adam Riess as the one of the people working on the Hubble tension, trying to measure the distance two separate variables with unparalleled precision has now got his hands on the James Webb Space Telescope. Well, I finally got a chance to interview him, and we talked about the work that he did on the Hubble Space Telescope to get his Nobel Prize. 

Pamela Gay [00:02:43] And as a grad student. 

Fraser Cain [00:02:45] Yes. And what it’s been like getting his hands on James Webb and the work that he’s been able to do in sort of the future of measuring distance in the universe. And it’s, you know, everyone’s always about theory and and Adam Reese’s about the week is the is the yardstick. Correct. Right. So like I want to check the ruler one more time and has just done just incredible work and sort of is deeply aware and thinks about about how we measure distance to the universe and knows that that a lot of current theories of cosmology and stuff rely on, on on the work that he does and his team. And so it was a fascinating interview. I think it’s one I’m most proud of in recent memory. So if you haven’t already, I subscribe to my podcast and it be a fairly recent interview, depending on on when you’re listening to this, if you’re not listening to the Universe Today podcast, by the way, there well over a thousand episodes containing interviews and question shows and all the stuff that I do. It’s also available on on YouTube as well. And I just like I finished the interview, I was just like, wow, what a conversation. So great. So I’m just that’s it. I’m just so excited about being able to talk to people like Adam Riess about the Hubble tension and James Webb, all that stuff. Amazing. That’s it. That’s that’s my I. 

Pamela Gay [00:04:03] Want to say if you enjoyed this show, if you enjoy Universe Today, if you enjoy Escape Velocity Space News, leave a review. It costs you nothing except for a few minutes. And that does more to get us in front of more eyes than anything else you can do. Spread the science by spreading your happy news about what you like about our shows. And if you dislike us, please email us and we’ll work to improve our ways. 

Fraser Cain [00:04:30] All right? Yes, please. Now, we’re so familiar with NASA’s space exploration efforts, but you might be surprised to learn that China launches almost as many rockets as the US. They’ve got their own space exploration program and could soon bring humans to the surface of the moon. So let’s give a brief overview of China’s space exploration plans. Now, I think before we get into this episode, I think it’s really important to stress the fact that this is a sampler. This is this is a tapas plate of of little bits and bobs and information about the Chinese space program. You know, we here we are, 700 plus episodes into Astronomy Cast. Hundreds have covered various NASA activities, history missions and so on. And there is no way that we can give you anything. That is, maybe we could do ten episodes and give you a more comprehensive series on Chinese space exploration plans, and and maybe we will, but but this is just a high level sampler. That is, we’re going to talk about things that strike our attention deficit disorder fancy. And so we are going to flit around like hummingbirds, sampling little bits and pieces from what China is, is working on. And hopefully we will, give you more updates in the future as this all starts to unfold. Do you agree? 

Pamela Gay [00:05:54] You concur? I do, I wouldn’t have said ADHD fancy as much as desire to rabbit hole with OCD, but we both have different voices in our brains. 

Fraser Cain [00:06:05] That’s exactly right. Yeah, yeah, yeah, but there’s stuff that I’m just like super, you know, intrigued by and I obsess about. And then other stuff I’m like asked is history stuff, I don’t care. So, so, so I guess, you know, like I said in my intro, we’re so familiar with what, what the US has done, so familiar with Russia, done a lot of it’s because of the firsts, but China. 

Pamela Gay [00:06:29] And propaganda. 

Fraser Cain [00:06:30] And and profligate. Sure. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But China has been working hard at developing its. Own independent space exploration capability. So when did that get started? 

Pamela Gay [00:06:42] So back in the 1950s, China was working hand in hand with the then Soviet Union to. Purchase licenses two technologies. And it started with the goal of China wanting to put their own satellite into space by 1959. They didn’t quite meet that goal. And in fact, there was a major schism that arose between China and the Soviet Union, the Soviet Sino schism, and that led to them having to do the bulk of the advancement of the work actually on their own. And they didn’t really have people who were trained. They didn’t have the background they were starting from. Here’s something super simple and now we hate you. So we’re not going to tell you the details and figured it out with the goal of basically launching things that were bigger from more places than the U.S. and the Soviet Union were doing at the time. It was a slow crawl. They they didn’t go from zero to having all their own communication satellites in a decade. But they worked year after year, decade after decade, to be able to launch extremely heavy things into space from far away from the Soviet border, such that if they wanted to, they could drop things on anywhere on the planet, view things anywhere on the planet, or just destroy anything they felt like in orbit. 

Fraser Cain [00:08:21] Right? And I mean, you attempt to create a. Satellite industry a rocket launching capability. But one of the side effects of that is that you are now able to deploy thermonuclear weapons to any spot on Earth. And so the you know, the Americans have the ability to launch ICBMs. The Russians have this ability. This was a high priority for the Chinese to join the we can destroy our enemies from afar club. 

Pamela Gay [00:08:53] Yeah. And and this was largely happening under Mao. And, then it kind of came to a stop in the 70s and 80s as there was a transfer of power after Mao’s death in 76. And so we saw things like their anti-missile super gun got canceled, which I, for one, am glad I did not know about this until preparing for this episode. Missile. Supergun? Yeah, yeah, that was something they wanted to do, right? Yeah. So? So things slowed down for a while, and the focus was more on, a surging demand for communication satellites. I mean, let’s face it, the entire world had a surging demand for, communication satellites. And they, they worked on be able to get things into geosynchronous orbit. And just like all the normal, we just want to survive as an economy kind of thing. So it went from, we shall destroy you and have communications satellites to less destruction, more communications. 

Fraser Cain [00:10:04] Don’t forget we can destroy you. But also check out our communications satellites and weather satellites. 

Pamela Gay [00:10:09] Yeah. 

Fraser Cain [00:10:09] Yeah. And I think, you know, this whole idea, you know, because China has always been disconnected politically, economically from the West. They’ve had to create an entire industry that is separate. A copy is one way to describe it. And, you know, there’s a lot of people out there who are like, kids are going to listen to this episode. They could be like, yeah, but they stole all that technology and they stole plenty. You know, of course they much of their stuff is very reminiscent of Soviet era equipment manufacturing. Who knows where all of this came from? But, but they had to come up with their own rockets. You know, there’s the whole Long March series. They had to come up with their own platforms for crew capsules, which we’re going to get into later on. It’s a completely parallel rocket industry from what’s done in the West, what’s done in the US, what was done in the Soviet Union. It’s kind of astounding, without being able to have those kinds of connections to the West, how capable the whole program is today. You know, as I said in my introduction, they launched pretty much as many rockets as the US does. I don’t think people realize that. 

Pamela Gay [00:11:29] It’s it’s they and space acts are kind of neck and neck. And and when you look at it as China and space launch similar numbers of rockets and then there’s everybody else. Yes. It’s really kind of astounding. 

Fraser Cain [00:11:44] Yeah. Yeah, yeah. So I mean we’ve got this er you know, through from the through the 60s, they got their first, I mean I think their first telecommunication satellite was in like 1970, through and of course developing their ICBM program, communication satellites, weather satellites. 

Pamela Gay [00:12:02] And recoverable satellites. 

Fraser Cain [00:12:05] Oh that’s interesting I didn’t know that. 

Pamela Gay [00:12:07] Yeah. So one of the things they did early on is they became the Third Nation very quietly, because I know I never and I was like the total space geek. I never heard about this. One of the things they did early on is they became the third nation in the world to launch a satellite, have it do it’s round and round and round thing, and then successfully come back down and be able to be recovered. So they were focused on building heavy things, building recoverable things and and not recoverable really makes sense if you think about how in the early days, we didn’t really have a good way to do encrypted communications from space to Earth, and even the U.S. was dropping reels of film, of images they took of the planet back down onto the planet. So recovering an entire satellite is even better, and is, in fact, what we do with the governmental spy plane that we periodically see launched here in the U.S.. 

Fraser Cain [00:13:09] And I think, like the the roads really diverged by the late 90s. You know, there was some level of integration between China and the rest of the world market. They were launching commercial satellites. They even launched a couple of iridium satellites. And by the late 80s. There were these accusations from the United States that the Chinese were stealing technology from various aerospace firms. And you got this thing called Itar, the International Traffic and Arms Regulations, and that prohibited any U.S. made components launching onto Chinese rockets. And so a American satellite manufacturer couldn’t launch their payload onto a Chinese rocket, had to be anyone else. You know, if you launch an Orion, you can launch a rocket lab, but you can’t go with China. 

Pamela Gay [00:13:59] And you couldn’t even sell an Xbox to China. 

Fraser Cain [00:14:02] Yeah, right. Because they can be used for for missile guidance. It was the opposite. The PlayStations like the PlayStation. But anyway that was. 

Pamela Gay [00:14:08] A it was one of them. 

Fraser Cain [00:14:09] Yeah yeah yeah. And so you get this this bifurcation where there was some level of integration between China and the rest of the world aerospace market, and then you get this separation. 

Pamela Gay [00:14:23] And and the way it happened was extremely smart. A lot of Chinese students would come to the United States for graduate school, would get jobs after graduate school, and research centers, would stay in the U.S. for a decade or so, getting really good job experience, bringing value to the United States. And then China would be like, if you come back, we will we will offer you this absolutely amazing job. I’ve seen it happen with some of the grad students that I was in college with that they, like, essentially fled China, went to school in the United States, lived here for a long time, and then were basically offered complete professorships with tenure and labs and like everything a faculty member ever dreamed of. So they’re letting their people out to be successful in the US did benefit the U.S., and then China brought them back and could learn everything that these people had learned and transfer that information to their people. And there was spying going on. Spying happened. So, yes, real espionage is a thing we even see at U.S. companies to U.S. company. I think you just assume if money is involved, industrial espionage is going to happen. And sometimes it crosses borders. 

Fraser Cain [00:15:48] Yeah. And I think. Like that’s like there’s there’s the one where you look at what somebody else has done, like people say, oh, the Chinese are copying space. They’re copying the way they’re landing rockets. Well, I mean, anybody who understands how to build rockets and how to launch them watches a video of a SpaceX Falcon nine landing goes, oh, I know how we could do that. Right, right. There’s no espionage required. You’re just like looking at the video going, hey, they’re landing rockets. It’s it’s that’s sort of obvious, you know, you’re someone has done it first and now you’re just you’re you’re doing the same thing. And of course you will. But it’s a different thing if you actually get your hands on the software, on the hardware, on the components, all that kind of stuff. And you actually. Yeah. And and who knows, like nobody really like, I’m sure they’re a spy. They’re spies out there. There are intelligence, counterintelligence that people know the true extent. But when you. 

Pamela Gay [00:16:38] Look, you do not want to know the true extent. Please do not tell me the extent. 

Fraser Cain [00:16:43] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, totally. All right. So. So I think things took a dramatic turn right at the end of the last century, sort of leading up to the year 2000. So let’s, let’s talk about this. You know, it’s one thing to launch satellites. They have the potential to launch nuclear weapons around the Earth. But, you know, the mark of a spacefaring nation is to put humans in space. 

Pamela Gay [00:17:11] Yeah. 

Fraser Cain [00:17:12] And so we saw that in 2003. 

Pamela Gay [00:17:16] It finally happened. That became a word that had a human associated with it. 

Fraser Cain [00:17:22] So I can do some some is it etymology? So, so yeah. So this is my Mandarin practice. So Taichung is means like the most empty is what is what that actually means. So the most empty space the most empty. And so that they take not that Taichung is the is the Chinese word for outer space. And so when you have a take a night, which is I guess like that’s not the not part comes from astronaut. That’s how you get the most empty space people explorers is they’re sort of merging into words. 

Pamela Gay [00:18:00] I like it. We have the Latin route, the route, the Greek route and the Chinese route. 

Fraser Cain [00:18:05] Yeah, yeah. Much together? Yeah. Yeah, exactly. 

Pamela Gay [00:18:08] Yeah. 

Fraser Cain [00:18:10] Yeah. So I mean, and when you saw that first capsule, it really looked like a like a Russian. 

Pamela Gay [00:18:18] Like a Soyuz. 

Fraser Cain [00:18:19] Soyuz capsule? Yeah. Like was clearly either they bought a lot of parts or even deeply inspired by that. And so but go with what? Go with what works first. 

Pamela Gay [00:18:28] Well, and and I mean, the thing is, at a certain level, capsules look like capsules. The U.S. was doing the space shuttle program at that point. They had nothing for mass to inspire them. There were plenty of images of the Soviet and then Russian Soyuz capsules. There’s plenty of museums that you can walk up and stare at them longingly and learn what you can and take lots of photos, and you start. I mean, even Picasso said the copying is the greatest form of. I don’t remember the exact words he used, but the. 

Fraser Cain [00:19:06] Form of flattery, I think. 

Pamela Gay [00:19:07] Yes, yes. 

Fraser Cain [00:19:08] Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. Yeah. 

Pamela Gay [00:19:12] And and so yeah, that it’s going to look like the Soyuz. That was what else existed at the time. And it’s only quite recently that we’ve seen the Dragon capsule being like, we shall be dramatically different. Even the Orion capsule. Yes, it was very different, but it wasn’t dramatically different. 

Fraser Cain [00:19:34] So in 2003, was it, the. 

Pamela Gay [00:19:37] First. 

Fraser Cain [00:19:38] Chinese astronaut taken out, Yang Liwei, goes into orbit demonstrating that they can send humans to space. And it wasn’t going to be the last. 

Pamela Gay [00:19:48] And along with this, joining the nations that have a human spaceflight, China at this point was also getting deeply involved in the international pursuit of science. They were showing up to the conferences, they were presenting their research, and they were gearing up with the and I’m going to say it wrong and you’re going to say it right. The Chinese series of of space probes. They they were gearing up to become the next big nation going to other world. 

Fraser Cain [00:20:20] So and I really think that, like you get this point now where the Chinese do decide they’re going to kind of go down three separate paths. One is a permanent presence in low-Earth orbit, and that’s with their space stations. The second is, is to really specialize in focus on learning how to explore the moon. And that’s what the China series that you mentioned. And then we’re starting to see as well, laying down the groundwork for the future exploration of Mars. And already there’s been one mission sent to Mars Rover lander and and other plans are in the works for that. So let’s start with the with the space station and that sort of continuous presence in low-Earth orbit. 

Pamela Gay [00:21:06] So like the Soviet Union, they they did the initial small orbiting launch, a space station that wasn’t for permanent use and expansion. It was just a like happy little space station. Use it to do the exploring. They got good at that. But now they’re working on how do you say their current space station? I’m going to keep saying this to you, because I know you get to have someone who can say these things correctly. 

Fraser Cain [00:21:36] Angle. 

Pamela Gay [00:21:37] Yes. 

Fraser Cain [00:21:38] Okay. I mean, I’m not getting the tones. I’m not trying to get the tones right, but yeah. Tiangong. 

Pamela Gay [00:21:45] So so that, is is more in line with the Mir space station, where this is a hub that is designed that they can expand it. They already have plans to add a second docking node to it to keep adding new habitat nodes to it. They are looking to build a permanent residence that is expandable with expansive, solar panel power. They they want to be there as the shining, bright new awesome thing in low-Earth orbit when the International Space Station finally gets put out of its misery. 

Fraser Cain [00:22:27] Yeah, like when the ISS orbited, probably by the end of the 2020s. Yeah. And unless a some commercial private space station is launched and is operational, the Chinese space station will be the only permanently occupied space station in low-Earth orbit. 

Pamela Gay [00:22:46] And they’re looking to build international collaborations of their own. Their relationship with Russia is always weird. I’m just going to leave it it weird. They’re also working with, with Egypt, South Africa, a number of other nations. That really surprised me going down the list. And and so they’re looking to create an international presence in space for the nations that have previously been left out at various points and also have a desire to have their own presence. And along with building the International Space Station of their own Chinese origin, they’re also looking to create a permanent residency on the moon’s south pole. 

Fraser Cain [00:23:33] So let’s shift focus down to the moon. And we mentioned they have sent a series of spacecraft. I think we’re up to Chang’e five, which was the sample return mission from the moon moth. So they’ve landed landers, they’ve had rovers, they’ve done a sample return. And that’s key, right. Because you demonstrate that you can land softly on the moon, that you can scoop up some samples, and then you can put it into a sample capsule. You launch off of the moon again and return safely to Earth. What does that sound like? Right. 

Pamela Gay [00:24:10] There. And they’re doing it slow and steady with realistic timelines. And I think the only nation whose timelines we can generally know, or within 10% accuracy, is probably China. And and the slow and steady is allowing them to do some really amazing science. Xiang a two, for instance, didn’t just go by the moon, it kept going and went to start it went to an asteroid. I can’t pronounce this as a theme today. And and so they’re also doing the the flybys, the landing, the we went to one place, now we’re going to another place redirect that we’re so used to seeing with U.S. missions. It’s it’s a slow and steady but constant evolution forward with plans to get humans to the moon by the, 2030 and a permanent settlement by 2036. Last dates I saw. All dates are subject to. 

Fraser Cain [00:25:13] Right? Yeah. I mean, the right now there’s a couple of things that are in the works. So we’ve got the Tonga six, which is going to be the next landing sample return mission from the far side of the moon. Then they’ve got the Chang’e A seven, which is going to be launching in the polar region, and it’s going to attempt to explore the permanently shadowed craters. And then China. 

Pamela Gay [00:25:35] Eight. 

Fraser Cain [00:25:36] Is going to be testing whether or not you can use the stuff that you find in the south pole of the moon to make water, make breathable atmosphere, things like that. They’re going to be testing. How can we actually live off the land on the moon? And as you said, the goal with the Human space Exploration program is to have people set foot on the moon, like probably as early as 2029. And as you said, with their like, they’ve been hitting their schedule like this is yeah, I guess. One of the advantages of a centralized economy is you just. 

Pamela Gay [00:26:10] Trail. 

Fraser Cain [00:26:10] You, you know, you don’t get all that chaos of like people choosing different political parties every time. You just you can have that long term focus. 

Pamela Gay [00:26:20] Yeah. 

Fraser Cain [00:26:21] For all the downsides that you get with that. Now. Let’s talk about some of the other stuff that’s that’s coming as well. Yeah. So there was Mars. 

Pamela Gay [00:26:34] Yes. And they had their zoo rugs on. Please say these things. 

Fraser Cain [00:26:40] Jurong. 

Pamela Gay [00:26:42] I would never have got there from an ax. 

Fraser Cain [00:26:44] Yeah. Oh, wait, which one is. 

Pamela Gay [00:26:47] There? Little rover? 

Fraser Cain [00:26:49] Yeah. Yeah. Which also. So the. So the mission was to win and the rover is called Jurong. 

Pamela Gay [00:26:55] And. That’s right. Begin with a Z on next. All right. And it was discovering seismic activity working in parallel with the Insight lander. It was exploring a region closer to the poles than most nations are willing to go. And it was the first mission to really perfect the. And we brought something just to use to take selfies. 

Fraser Cain [00:27:21] Yes. Yeah. They’ve nailed the selfie game. Got to admit, like. 

Pamela Gay [00:27:26] They really have. Yeah. Japan’s totally following in their footsteps. I’m really here for it. 

Fraser Cain [00:27:32] They deployed a special little camera while they were in space. Just so they could get a picture of their spacecraft in space. Yeah, that’s like, what, a flex. Yeah. 

Pamela Gay [00:27:41] Yes, it’s it’s excellent. And and I have to say one thing we, we failed to mention is they are doing all of the science, all of this exploration, all of this human space, building up of infrastructure, while at the same time developing entirely their own GPS network that is separate from everybody else’s, their own, earth observing network, separate from everybody else’s, their own weather satellite network separate from everyone else’s. 

Fraser Cain [00:28:11] Their own Starlink, their own mega constellation. 

Pamela Gay [00:28:13] Yeah yeah yeah yeah, yeah. So so there’s Starlink, as far as I can tell, is still behind Starlink. And it’s kind of rude of us to call them all Starlink like Kleenex. But this is the way the world is going, right? I’m sure that’s a link, is there? 

Fraser Cain [00:28:28] It’s a grants. 

Pamela Gay [00:28:29] Of. Yes. All right. 

Fraser Cain [00:28:30] Yeah. So Eagle, either communications make it an internet mega constellation. So but before we, like, move on to all this other stuff, I just wanted to mention one thing that I think people should really focus on. What is unique about the Chinese rovers is there’s one piece of equipment that the Chinese have installed on the rovers that has not been present on any others, and that is a very deep ground penetrating radar. We saw that on the moon missions, and we saw that as well on the Mars mission, and that allowed them to peer down into the regolith for like 100m plus. And they were able to on the moon, they were able to see down and see the size of the reveal of how the jumbled up pieces of rock grew in size, down to fairly large boulders at the bottom of its detection area. And with the one on Mars, they were looking for water. Looking for water ice. Is there water ice within a few hundred meters of the surface of Mars? And they did not find any. So at near the equator. And so, you know, the purpose of this was like, hopefully it would have found deposits of water really close to the surface, and that would have been great. I mean, there have been other detections of water deeper down, but but nothing, you know, the, Jurong wasn’t able to, to find any. So I just wanted to sort of like I said that as a, as a, as a piece of equipment and we’re going to see something kind of similar to that with the upcoming Europa Clipper mission, which is going to have its ability to try and peer through the ice on Europa and try to figure out how deep the water is down below. It’s a it’s such a great tool. I mean, we’ve talked about this in the past, like the find cities in, Central America using ground penetrating radar to look through the debris in the rock, in the sand. 

Pamela Gay [00:30:15] And, and lidar. 

Fraser Cain [00:30:17] And find old pyramids and things like that. Yeah, yeah. It’s amazing technology. 

Pamela Gay [00:30:21] Yeah. And and I think one of the keys here is President XI Jinping has been in office for a long time. Looks like he intends to stay in office for a while. Longer. 

Fraser Cain [00:30:33] Forever maybe. Yeah. 

Pamela Gay [00:30:38] Moving on. She she has really stated over and over that he sees the Chinese presence in space as integral to the strategic plan for a nation and their competition on the world stage. And when you make exploration a cornerstone, it enables things that don’t happen. When you have exploration as just an interest of the nation. There’s a cornerstone and there’s a national interest, and they aren’t quite the same. And and so what we see is a desire to try and do things that have never been done. One one of the things I read about in preparation for this, episode that I had no idea was a plan, is they want to build a large structure in space made of AI powered can sats. That are working together and can collect debris and do things. And this kind of reminds me of all the sci fi shows we’ve seen with swarm bots. But like this. This was used a lot, and Stargate were one of the enemies were swarm bots that could come in and grab things and use their material and churn out new things, and China hasn’t put it that way as swarm bots capable of massive destruction. But the fact that they are looking to build a mega structure of swarm bots in space that can collect debris is very sci fi of them. And and I’m going to be watching that now. Yeah. That’s interesting. Perhaps having an existential crisis this afternoon. 

Fraser Cain [00:32:34] And so there’s a couple of things just like, again, this is a laundry list, you know, as we have flitting from from flower to flower. They’re building their version of the Hubble Space Telescope, the 20 inch telescope. And the original plan was to bolt it on to the Chinese space station. They realized vibrations. He. That’s a bad idea. But it’s going to fly in formation with the space station, and then they’re going to be able to bring it to the station, dock it, swap out the gyros, and then release it again. And that’s a very elegant way, I think, to have a space telescope just fly really close to your space station. They’re in the works for their own sample return mission for Mars, and it’s likely that they’re going to beat the American European collaboration to bringing a sample back from Mars. That’s, you know, the the downside of. Cool. Well, yeah. The political will here. You go from people with a diverse group of opinions about what should happen. And they vote and it’s so troublesome. Yeah. 

Pamela Gay [00:33:34] So the game of civilization, you always do better in the game if you’re either royalty or a dictator and. Right. And ocracy. Yeah, knowing. 

Fraser Cain [00:33:43] Who actually gets results. But the right. And so we should see probably but unlike like with the American version where they’ve got, you know, perseverance, collecting all these samples, putting them carefully in its belly, bringing them to a sample return capsule where, you know, here’s the best of the best that I can find it along a 20 kilometer long drive, the Chinese one will be just dig some stuff nearby and put it into. It’s probably gonna have helicopters like the plane. It’s going to multiple helicopters as well as a rover as well as digging arms. And it’s going to try and collect as much samples as can in its in its area and then bring that back to Earth. They’ve got multiple missions planned for various asteroids in the works. And the culmination and we talked about humans going, you know, as the plan is a long term based on the moon. And then following that, the plan is to send humans to Mars, like what is a sample return mission for Mars look like? That looks like sending people to Mars back. Yeah. So, you know, whatever happens with the rest of human space exploration, we’re going to see this adherence to the schedule from the Chinese as they move through. And we didn’t even talk about, like, like they’re they’re extending their reusable rocket plans. They just tested out a new rocket that looks extremely familiar to Falcon nine. They’re working on version, their own versions of Starship, fully reusable two stage rockets they’re building. 

Pamela Gay [00:35:14] They launched from a ship they’ve launched. Launched a large rocket from a ship. 

Fraser Cain [00:35:19] It was a it was a solid. It was a complete solid rocket. So this is a new thing is a, you know, every part of it. The booster, the main stage, the the strap on boosters, the upper stage. Everything was solid rocket, which is which is very dangerous. You don’t get to turn it off again. So it works. But they were able to launch into orbit with a fully, you know, solid rocket, as you said, launch from ship. And, you know, again, squirrel, they, you know, this solves one of their big problems, which is that they let their upper stages fall or they live, their lower stages fall into people’s villages. 

Pamela Gay [00:35:57] Yeah, they have a problem with that. 

Fraser Cain [00:35:59] Down range from their rocket launch facilities. And they just they’ll tell people downrange that they should evacuate because a rocket may be falling into their village. And then they, you know, who knows where it actually lands to clean it up. And everything goes back, hopefully to get too much hydrazine in there. Yeah. In their breakfast. 

Pamela Gay [00:36:16] It’s a problem. 

Fraser Cain [00:36:17] Yeah, yeah. So hopefully getting reusable rockets launching from from ships will mitigate that problem to some extent. So, you know what we again we could do this forever. Yeah. But this is like our high level. I want to come back around and we’ll go in more detail and talk about, see the China program or talk about the Mars program, or talk about their asteroid program or their, you know, all this kind of stuff because each one is a. Totally, interesting conversation on its own, but this is just our random thoughts on the Chinese space program. So far. 

Pamela Gay [00:36:51] So far, so far. Yeah. 

Fraser Cain [00:36:53] Pamela. Thank you. 

Pamela Gay [00:36:55] Thank you. And. Yeah. Existential crisis scheduled for this afternoon. But first, I would like to thank several of our patrons. We can’t thank all of you. All of all of the time. But this week, I get to thank Tim McMeekin, Gregory Singleton, Michael Regan, Kenneth Ryan, Scott Briggs, J. Alex Anderson, Frodo tannin. Bo I think I got it right. 

Fraser Cain [00:37:20] As you say that a lot. 

Pamela Gay [00:37:22] I think I have a correction for the pronunciation in the notes this week. Thank you for the correction. Bruce Amazon, Jim MC Jian, father Prax Szymanski, planetary Glenn McDavid, the air major, lu Zealand, Nyla Matthew Horstmann, Marco Yarra, C John Drake, Scott cohn, Scott bieber, Greggy Georgie Ivanova, zebra lark Matthias Hayden, David Gates, Justin Proctor, the big squish, squash. Cooper, Eran. Zagreb, Don. Mundus, Peter. Benjamin. Mueller, Philip. Grand James, Roger Carney ration. Thank you all so much. We are here because of you. 

Fraser Cain [00:38:09] Thanks everyone and we’ll see you next week. 

Pamela Gay [00:38:11] Bye bye. Astronomy Cast is a joint product of Universe Today and the Planetary Science Institute. Astronomy cast is released under a Creative Commons Attribution license. So love it, share it, and remix it, but please credit it to our hosts, Fraser Cain and Doctor Pamela Gay. You can get more information on today’s show topic on our website. Astronomy. Cars.com. This episode was brought to you. Thanks to our generous patrons on Patreon. If you want to help keep the show going, please consider joining our community at Patreon.com Slash Astronomy Cast. Not only do you help us pay our producers a fair wage, you will also get special access to content right in your inbox and invites to online events. We are so grateful to all of you who have joined our Patreon community already. Anyways, keep looking up. This has been Astronomy Cast. 

Show Notes

Chinese space program (Wikipedia entry)

China National Space Administration (Wikipedia entry)

China National Space Administration (CNSA, English page)

What’s Driving China’s Race to Build a Space Station? (China Power Project)

Tiangong space station could alter perceptions of China’s space program, report says (SpaceNews)

China’s growing space program in Latin America concerns U.S. Pentagon (Paywall) (Washington Post)

China plans to land astronauts on moon before 2030, expand space station, bring on foreign partners (Associated Press)

China space program Coverage (Space.com)

China’s Space Program in 2023: Taking Stock (The Diplomat)

Chang’e-6, collecting the first lunar farside samples (The Planetary Society)

China’s space program: Five things to know (Phys.org)