This week, China has plans to launch its first prototype of a future space station. Being the third nation to send a person to space, China leaves the rest of the world anxious for their launch event. As U.S. space programs face restructuring, China seems to be taking a rather major step toward advancing their progress in space. Keeping up with the U.S. and Russia, it wouldn't be a surprise if China's Tiangong project was just a means to an end: landing a man on the moon.
Experts are saying that this is all a part of China's goal to complete a manned space station by the year 2020. With hundreds of upgrades made to the site so far, including new computer systems, engineers and workers have worked to ensure the success of the launch in the next few days.
The Tiangong 1 (Chinese Mandarin for Heavenly Place) is set for blast off anytime this Thursday or Friday. China is hoping that this launch will serve as a testing ground for maneuver and docking skills critical for later missions. The U.S. has reigned for many years in space, but this may be China's opportunity as space agency NASA is forced into the private sector. Without the political backing, it will prove difficult for American space efforts to regain momentum, and this may be exactly where the Chinese will show to have a greater advantage than us right now.
Is teamwork a possibility? As always, this doesn't have to be perceived as a race at all. In fact, it could even be an opportunity for collaboration. In the past, Russia and China have worked closely together buying and selling space hardware. Up until now, it's actually been the U.S. that has refrained from any form of cooperation. In the defense of the U.S., there is perhaps more to consider beyond space cooperation. Some believe working together in space programs leads to working with China's military.
Whether or not China's space operations are closely linked with its military activity is still an unknown fact to most; nonetheless, the U.S. hasn't budged its policy banning cooperation with the Chinese back in October of 2010. Whatever the next move is for either side, future events like these are sure to set the precedent for the ever evolving, complex relationship between two growing world powers.