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Too Big A Hurry?

Rob Coppinger writes that the Chinese are taking big risks rushing their human space program.

We'll see. They may be going too fast for safety, but at their current general sluggish pace, they're not going to beat us to the moon any time soon, despite Mike Griffin's cynical scare mongering.


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Karl Hallowell wrote:

Wow, this sounds pretty messed up. I suppose one doesn't need expensive training, if the passengers don't do much in space. But practice space walks for the first time without any sort of zero gee practice? When the leadership will act irrationally (to save face) in the event of any publicized accident, then taking these kinds of risks seems extraordinarily foolhardy.

Bryan Price wrote:

OT - Rand, you've moved your feed from index.xml to atom.xml. It took me about a week to figure this out. According to Bloglines, I'm the first one to notice. There's another 109 people still looking in the wrong place (according to Bloglines). If you could do a 301, then Bloglines handles the switch for you. Probably other RSS readers as well.

Phil Fraering wrote:

The chinese are rushing things?

Their launch vehicles are much more mature and reliable than ours were back when we were doing the Mercury program, their capsule is a slightly larger and improved Soyuz, which has a track record of over thirty years.

They've done two flights in the last five years with this capsule.

That's a rush?

Raoul Ortega wrote:

I'll admit that I'm too lazy to look it up myself, but how much training was done before Vokhod 2 and Gemini 4? Wasn't it until Gemini 12 that there was a successful EVA that completed all scheduled tasks?

This isn't to excuse the Chinese, as they do have the advantage of seeing decades of others experiences with zero-g, and can bypass all the dead-ends/mistakes made during that time. But to not have proper training facilities seems to mean they learned the wrong lesson. Or are they engaging in some sort of paranoid secrecy?

As for "rushing things", it's the size of the increments they are attempting, not the speed at which they are attempting them. Unless they are confident that they've learned all the right lessons of the 60s/70s without actually trying them out themselves. (Aren't they talking about a docking with a "space station" for flight #4?) Which seems to be a sort of hubris that's asking for a disaster as a result.

Bill White wrote:

Bigelow and Lockheed Martin (at least all by itself) didn't do Mercury and Gemini either.

If an Atlas V crew taxi docks with a Bigelow habitat on that capsule's second or third (or first?) launch would that be hubris asking for disaster?

Does Lockheed have access to proprietary data from Gemini days that the Chinese couldn't also acquire one way or another or should Lockheed fly a great many test missions before trying to rendezvous and dock with a Bigelow hab?

Rand Simberg wrote:

Bryan, regardless of whether it's index or atom, the feed seems to be broken. I don't know why MT has quit updating it. Just one more MT upgrade problem.

mz wrote:

It seems the Chinese manned space program has a small budget. Everybody knows how the Chinese can do something fast nowadays if they put their efforts into it. The manned space program has been quite slowly progressing through the years.
I think Rand has been one of the sensible voices, compared the people who say China will be on the moon in no time.

A lunar circumnavigation is not that hard anymore once you have docking and rendezvous figured out so you can dock with some kind of TLI stage. But going to a human lunar landing, that is a very big step.
It might be that Griffin (or whoever the next admin will be) is secretly hoping for a "Chinese Apollo 8" in the future to secure funding for the US lunar program.

Leland wrote:

Does Lockheed have access to proprietary data from Gemini days that the Chinese couldn't also acquire one way or another or should Lockheed fly a great many test missions before trying to rendezvous and dock with a Bigelow hab?

Hell no Bill. Lockheed promised to give back all that information and forget they ever saw it. Like all NASA contractors, they relearn everything each time a contract is rebid. Plus Lockheed never learned a thing designing, launching, and operating unmanned satellites.

Jimmy Pealer wrote:

I think this discussion and the original article (and the two that he references) are a little misleading. The problem is not one of speed: the Chinese are actually moving pretty slow, with 2-3 years between launches. The issue raised by the other piece is if they are doing things properly. Are they expending enough resources in the proper way to achieve success?

Before dealing with that, however, I would mention that there is an interesting question about the proper pace. It is really hard to see how their very low launch rate is good for the Chinese. If they are only dealing with systems and procedures every couple of years, that is a long time to forget how to do things and make mistakes. When they roll their spacecraft to the pad and start testing it, will they miss steps? Will they endanger safety? You cannot become a world class tennis player by only playing on weekends, and so it is worth asking if you can run a safe space program by doing complex tasks every 2-3 years.

But back to the other questions, I would hesitate to answer based upon the limited information in the blog and the two articles he linked to (and Space Daily is generally not a very reliable website). If you read all that closely, they essentially say that they have not seen any evidence that the Chinese are practicing EVA's properly. But that is not proof that they _are not._ It is entirely possible that they simply have not released photos. Sometimes they are secretive in odd ways, and sometimes material is available but not widely distributed. A few years ago I saw a video of a Chinese training program and I was surprised at how comprehensive it was. They were practicing land egress, water egress, search and rescue and all the things that you would expect them to do. So they could be doing zero-g tests and simply not showing it.

I'd wait and see if they release any more information before reaching conclusions.

DWPittelli wrote:

"they're not going to beat us to the moon any time soon"

Indeed, they'll be at least 40 years too late to do that.

Habitat Hermit wrote:

Bias: I like Chinese (and other Far East Asians) a lot and dislike communism a lot ^_^

I just can't manage to get worked up over this, whether or not the Chinese will beat the US back to the moon is sort of uninteresting. What is done after getting there will be far more important.

However when the Chinese eventually manage to reach the moon will their flag be red with some yellow stars or something completely different? ^_^

Cecil Trotter wrote:

Where is the proof that they've not done any ground testing of much consequence? Who really knows what they're doing. They built an additional SSBN that we didn't even know about until two showed up on Google Earth rather than the one our intel agencies thought they had.

ken anthony wrote:

What does putting a man in orbit mean? Halfway to anywhere? I think it means you're serious. The achievement deserves a certain amount of respect.

I think calling it a race is premature. One day it may be. One day it may be something more serious than just a race.

Commercial space gives me hope. I suspect private enterprise will do most of their zero-g training in actual zero-g.... and not just in parabolic flight and even less in a water tank.

I remember reading that the first EVA was almost a tragedy because the suit was inflated too much? Sometimes you just have to do things.

ken anthony wrote:

BTW, today is the eleventh anniversary of the Phoenix lights. A day or few later the airforce gave a very unconvincing demonstration of dropped flairs at night.

Brad wrote:

I don't see the Chinese attempting even a circumlunar manned mission anytime soon. They really need the Long March 5 for a job like that and the latest news is the LM5 is delayed until 2014. Considering that once upon a time the LM5 was supposed to fly in 2008 the delay of the LM5 is typical of the overall slow pace of the Chinese manned program.

Karl Hallowell wrote:

Ken, you wrote:

BTW, today is the eleventh anniversary of the Phoenix lights. A day or few later the airforce gave a very unconvincing demonstration of dropped flairs at night.

After all, we knew those were flares this time.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on March 13, 2008 6:07 AM.

Apres Spitzer, The Deluge was the previous entry in this blog.

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