The back cabin of the "Shenzhou IV" returned to its birthplace in the airspace city on the northern outskirts of Beijing on the afternoon of January 7.
"Accurate launching, normal operation and safe retrieval" featured the launching of four spacecrafts before the formal launch of manned spacecraft of China's manned space project, summed up by Huang Chunping, commander-in-chief of "Shenjian"-Long March-II F, and deputy chief commander of the launching site.
Safety and Reliability Are the Most Important Things for Manned Space
Huang Chunping was interviewed by a reporter in China Academy of Lunch Vehicle Technology(CALT) where he works. This carrier rocket expert said: I would go to attend a meeting on January 9 to make arrangements for the work related to the manned rocket." Huang told the reporter that Russia and the United States conducted a dozen or so launchings before they formally sent manned spaceships into the orbit, whereas China would conduct manned flight test after only four times, so he felt enormous pressure, this was very insufficient from the angle of science, he said. Because safety and reliability of the spaceship are calculated by probability, so a definite sub-sample was needed.
With regard to countermeasures, Huang said: The technological condition of the " 'Shenjian' and 'Shenzhou-IV' are entirely the same as the manned spacecraft, when directly approached, there wouldn't be much problem, but we won't let off any minor problem in data analysis. He continued, "considering that no more test will be conducted, so our principle is taking the four tests as the standard, we are resolved not to change the technological state where it is possible, we will make the fifth launch a success in a more "strict, meticulous, prudent and practical" style of work.
Another important preparatory work relates to astronauts. Huang said, "There are currently 14 astronauts under training, two of them are instructors, of course, they will also go up to the sky." The two instructors had been trained abroad and they taught others after their return, "Because we cannot afford to pay very high fees if all of them are sent abroad for training."
Huang said to the reporter that seats were installed in the "Shenzhou" spaceship for three astronauts, and the launching was design by taking three persons into account. As to how many persons will be sent in the first flight, it will be determined in light of the concrete circumstance. In future, there will be scientists who engage in scientific research in the outer space.
A report of Hong Kong-based Sing Tao Jih Pao, says: the "Shenzhou V" manned spaceship will be launched in October this year. Hung Chunping indicated the time still couldn't be decided at present, in case a problem with data analysis arises, the entire work process will likely be changed.
A colleague of Huang told the reporter that the time for the launch of "Shenzhou-IV" was postponed for one day because of Huang's insistence, the reason for this was that the temperature on the day originally set for launching was below 28 degree C. Huang Chunping said, "Although our instruments were designed and tested by the standard for normal work at temperature below 35 degree C., however, there is also stipulation that no launch is allowed below minus 20 degrees C. Since the most important things for manned flight are safety and reliability, then why should we risk the danger to launch on that day? Because that would put off the completion of the man-carrying project at least two years."
Huang stated that China's manned flight project was approved by the Central Special Committee on September 21, 1992. At that time, it was determined that China's manned space flight project was to be accomplished in "three steps": First, developing manned spaceship, then building a space laboratory under man's care, and finally setting up a space station under man's long-term care. This will make China become, in the early 21st century, a third country capable of independently carrying out manned space activity in the world following the United States and Russia.
Manned Space Flight Is a Scale for Measuring Space Strength
There were very few domestic reporters allowed to conduct on-the-spot coverage of the launch of "Shenzhou-IV", let alone foreign reporters. Nevertheless, these foreign reporters tried every possible means to inquire about related news, what they were most concerned about was the significance of China's manned spacecraft in safety strategy.
Huang said, "The aerospace industry of all countries are started from the research and manufacture of missiles, this is true of the whole world, the State has this need of safety. It was only afterwards that space technology rendered more service to the national economy and people's livelihood, for instance, communications satellite, resources satellite, disaster-relief satellite, and oceanic satellite, etc. We develop space industry for the purpose of peaceful use of the space."
"National security" contains the concepts of territorial waters and territorial airspace, territorial air usually refers to space area within a certain height above the land and waters. Going further to above the atmospheric layer will be the outer space called the fourth human territory beyond the land, ocean and territorial air.
However, internationally, there is no clearly definition about which piece of the outer space comes within the scope of which country. Huang Chunping said, "Just imagine, there are outer space facilities of another country at the place very, very high above your head, and so others clearly see what you are doing, and what you are feeling. That's why we also need to develop space technology."
As a matter of fact, there is no country in the world, which develops space technology purely for civilian use. The United States once set out to build a formidable Star War operational platform. During the Gulf War, America launched numerous satellites and put Iraq under close surveillance. Each detachment of the US military was installed with receivers in its satellite positioning system, they were clearly about where the man was and what instruction was issued, this is totally different from previous conditions wherein battles were fought by relying on short-wave radio for contacts.
A Chinese military personage engaging in strategy research said because all technologies are the same, therefore specialists are aware what does carrier rocket, which can accurately send spaceship into the pre-set orbit, mean to missile and what multi-modeled micro-wave remote sensing technology mean to reconnaissance and surveillance. In the current and future State security strategy, if one wants not to be controlled by others, one must have considerable space scientific and technological strength, otherwise one will be bullied by others.
Manned space flight is exactly a scale for measuring space strength. An American official report says that manned aerospace is epitome of space technology, it has extremely important political influence on the world pattern and a country's international standing. In 1961 when Soviet astronaut Yury A. Gagarin safely returned from the "Orient-I" spaceship on which he boarded, and thus became the world's first astronaut who completed the outer space orbital flight, the United States was greatly frightened, feeling that the Americans had fallen from the position of the world's first power overnight, so they immediately concentrated their resources to make their "Moon-land Project." It was only till 1969 when the "Apollo"-11 successfully landed the moon that they regained their sense of superiority and self-confidence.
China Is Determined to Concentrate Its Human and Financial Resources to Speed up Manned Aerospace Development
It is precisely because space technology has so important significance to the national economy and people's livelihood that China has set its mind to concentrate its human and financial resources to accelerate manned aerospace development. Today, its manned space project includes seven major systems-astronaut, application, spaceship, carrier rocket, launching site, monitoring and retrieval mechanisms, it has put to use over 100 work units, more than 3,000 factories and tens of thousands of scientific research, manufacturing and planning personnel, the entire project involves huge investments.
Huang explained the usage of this amount of investment. The majority of which was used in ground construction, such as factories, bases and equipment. When this sum of money is formed into fixed assets, it can generally be used in many national economic fields. "The money which was really used in space was actually not much."
Manned Space Flight Is More Difficult Than Unmanned Aerospace
Huang told the reporter that astronauts are the valuable assets of the country, so there must not be the slightest accident. To realize the goal of manned space flight, "Shenjian"-Long March-II F Rocket has added automatic fault-detecting and escape systems. In the automatic fault-detecting system are established 310 kinds of failure-model analyses, it can immediately give automatic warning once danger occurs, ordering the astronaut flee to the safe area.
When speaking of the escape system, Commander-in-Chief Huang walked to the "Shenjian" model that stands in the office; pointing at a four-fold lattice wing on one side, he said, "This is the most difficult part of the escape system, we once wanted to inquire about it from Russian experts, but they set the price at US$10 million, finally we solved the problem on our own."
As regards the overall level of China's space technology, Huang said that although the time for the space flight of our astronauts is 42 years later than that of Gagarin, this does not imply that China's space technology lags behind that of the United States and Russia by 42 years. He made an analysis from the aspects of rocket, spaceship, satellite, etc. As the commander-in-chief of "Shenjian" rocket carrying the "Shenzhou" spaceship, Huang Chunping is self-confident that China's carrier rocket is of the world's first rate. In the aspect of spaceship, compared with the "Union" spaceship still in use in Russia, the "Shenzhou" spacecraft is bigger in size, the inner equipment is more advanced, generally speaking, it has reached the level of the 1990s.
China's satellite developmental level is relatively lagging. The service lives of US and Russian satellites reach a dozen or so years, whereas that of China's is only several years, this is mainly because there is a disparity in the rocket propellant of the satellite self-carrying control system.
Huang said to the reporter that China has so far relied completely on itself for the development of its space undertaking, "as scientific and technological personnel, we hope very much to enter into cooperation with our foreign counterparts, but based on the considerations of basic economic strength, intellectual property rights, political factors as well as national security, China's aerospace industry can only develop self-reliantly."
In the opinion of Huang, what currently handicaps China's space undertaking is the fact that the country's overall economic strength is not particularly hefty, its production technological level is not high enough, and it still cannot put in sufficient funds, but he believe that as long as the State increases investments and, after working hard for 15-20 years, China's space undertaking can fully be able to catch up with the level of the world's most advanced countries.
(People’s Daily January 17, 2003)