The Chinese government has unveiled an ambitious blueprint for
developing space science that includes the launch of the country's
first astronomy satellite.
The satellite will carry a "hard X-ray modulation telescope,"
which is being developed by Chinese scientists for launch in 2010,
according to the Space Science Development Plan.
The Commission of Science, Technology, and Industry for National
Defense revealed the program as part of the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10) over the
The project is expected to help Chinese scientists make
breakthroughs in the research of black hole physics and other
related fields, because hard X-rays originate mostly from regions
close to black holes, experts said.
The telescope would be preceded by Shijian-10, a recoverable
satellite to be sent in 2009 for scientific experiments, according
to the plan.
The document also singles out three international cooperative
projects to be implemented in the current Five-Year Plan
One project is a collaboration with Russia on a joint unmanned
mission to Mars, which will not only bring samples back to Earth
but also land on one of the red planet's tiny moons, Ye Peijian, a
leading scientist at the Chinese Research Institute of Space
Technology, said last August.
China and Russia will also work on the World Satellite
Observatory of Ultra-Violet.
Another international cooperation project is the Small Explorer
for Solar Eruptions (SMESE), a Chinese-French mission to observe
solar flares and Coronal Mass Ejections for the next Solar Maximum
projected for 2011.
The plan does not specify a timetable for the three projects,
but it stresses that China will focus on innovation and
sustainability of space science development to better serve the
national economy and security.
Their ultimate goal is to use this scientific research to help
build China into an "innovative country.”
The government will set up a system to ensure scientific
projects are chosen in an "open and fair" fashion, and "multiple
sources" are encouraged to fund such projects, it says.
The release of the development blueprint coincides with the
ongoing sessions of the country's top legislature and political
advisory body in Beijing.
Last week, Huang Chunping and Qi Faren, both members of the
National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative
Conference (CPPCC), said the country would launch a moon
orbiter "some time" this year and stage a space walk in 2008.
(China Daily March 12, 2007)