Sample Technology Paper on Why is China Building a Space Station

Why is China Building a Space Station

China has embarked on an ambitious high-speed catch-up with the US and Russia in its space program. The country is investing millions of dollars in the space program and has recently put its first space station called Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) into orbit. After that, it launched the Tianhe-1, which is the initial and primary module of the permanently earth-orbiting Tiangong station. In 2022, China intends to fully complete and operationalize the space station by launching two additional science modules.

The Tiangong station is a near-replica of the International Space Station (ISS), from which China was excluded. The ISS space station is expected to stay in the lower earth orbit for about 15 years. During that time, it is likely that the Tiangong will be the only functioning space station in orbit for part of this period. Because of this, the US and other western countries fear that China could use the space station for military purposes instead of scientific and technological endeavors. For example, China could resort to using the space station for spying on other countries. By launching a space station, China will demonstrate to the world and the US that it has the technological capability of delivering people to space for long periods. It is important to note that China was barred from participating in the ISS because the US objected to the secretive nature of the Chinese government and its military connections. Furthermore, adding astronauts to the Tiangong space station is not a mean feat for a burgeoning space power like China.

China’s ambitions in the space program have never been secret. The country has poured a lot of resources into funding its space program. In fact, in 2019, China became the only nation to send a crewless vehicle to the remote side of the moon. The Tiangong space station was preceded by two earlier trials, the Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2, that utilized much simpler modules. The operational life of the Tiangong space station is estimated to be ten (10) years. Therefore, the Tiangong space station will operate in space long after the ISS has retired. The soon-to-be deorbiting of the ISS implies that there will be a period when China will be the only country hosting human beings in space.

China Space Agency has stated that it is mandated to build a powerful space country to explore the vast universe and develop space activities. China stated that the purpose of the Tiangong space station is to assist Chinese scientists learn how to assemble, operate and maintain space vessels in orbit. The space station will also help China to develop robust technologies that will enable its missions to travel deep into space in the future. China expects to develop the space station into a state-space laboratory, allowing astronauts to stay for long periods to carry out scientific research.

The US intelligence agencies firmly believe that the Tiangong space station is part of a broader plan by the Chinese government to attain or exceed the capabilities of the US to accrue maximum military, economic, and prestige benefits. Moreover, China is building the space station at a time when the ISS is nearing its end. The strategy for China is to achieve or supersede the milestones that we have achieved. China has been developing space robots that will take advantage of the space program to explore the solar system and has made significant inroads exploring outer space. For example, China is the first country to land a probe and a rover on the moon far side, which is less explored as part of its lunar exploration activities. Recently, China landed a probe onto mars to conduct scientific research and surveys.

 

China has expressed several reasons for developing the space station, a costly and challenging technology. China has mainly listed scientific research as the main reason for investing in space technology. The Chinese government plans to use the Tiangong space station to pursue medical, environmental, and technological discoveries. China also will utilize the space station for commercial purposes and boost its national prestige.

Moreover, China is set to reap many benefits when the ISS life in space comes to its natural end. The decommissioning of the ISS is set to be in 2024 when it is supposed to give room to a minor outpost called the Lunar Gateway that will be orbiting the moon.  The rise in China’s space program has aroused a deep feeling of national pride among its citizens. They Chinese people feel that the development of the space station is further proof that the country has risen from being a relatively poor country to one of the largest economies in the world. The space program has brought a lot of pride and power to the ruling Communist Party. The Chinese Communist Party has gained a lot of pride and reverence from the people of China because of the burgeoning space program.

Recently the US office of the Director of National Intelligence produced a report on global threats, which mentioned the Chinese space station as a means for China to acquire military, economic, and prestigious benefits. However, China insists that its space center is purely for scientific research and technology. The Chinese Space Station (CSS) has partnered with the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs and the Italian Space Agency to conduct scientific research. The research work includes utilizing ultra-cold atoms for quantum mechanics, research on material science, and medicinal research in microgravity. China has stressed severally that its space program is fully committed to advancing scientific and technological innovations.

There is evidence that scientific experiments in space yielded numerous breakthroughs to solve medical, environmental, and technological problems on earth. The Chinese government wants to use the space station to conduct research that will bolster its space exploration, including missions to mars and the lunar surface. However, a segment of the Chinese government officials expresses reservations about the sustainability of massive investment in the space program. China is the second-highest spender after the US in terms of space spending. China views its space program, especially the manned spaceflights, as an avenue for achieving international recognition and prestige. The Communist Party leadership also uses the program to boost national pride among its citizens. The launch of the space vessel is accompanied by celebrations and live broadcasts on state television, which are meant to extract maximum prestige.

With the imminent dawn of the ISS, China will undoubtedly try to wrestle away space leadership from the US. However, as China commits a vast amount of money to space programs, some analysts fear that the lack of coordination with other international players will create a dangerous competitive playing field in space. Moreover, the dominance in space programs will increase China’s soft power capabilities in the world.

China intends to launch a brand-new telescope into space to rival the NASA Hubble Space Telescope. The Tiangong space station will be critical in the deployment and operation of the new space telescope. The telescope is set to be launched in 2024. The telescope will be used to observe dark matter, dark energy, galactic evolution, detecting nearby objects, and cosmology, among others, using the ultraviolet and visible light spectrum. China will also use the Tiangong space station to investigate the technologies that will be critical for an enduring presence on the moon and mars. China feels that its space program should match its status as a great, powerful and wealthy country. In particular, the Chinese scientists emphasize that building a Chinese space station will provide unlimited opportunities for science and technological innovation.