China’s launched its first woman into space and I have to ask, who cares? Is this some major milestone that the rest of the world should really take note of? I could understand it being a big story in China because she is Chinese, as for the rest of the world especially the US and Russia which have had female astronauts in space for literally decades it seems rather redundant? Frankly, I’m tired of hearing about it this week and I am into space news. The way the US media has made this out to be a huge deal is just something beyond me, I don’t understand it. The real story here is that China sent 3 astronauts into space to perform docking manuevers for the first time with the space capsule Heavenly Palace. This is actually important news because once mastered the docking skills will mark an important milestone for China’s space program as it tries to acquire the skills necessary to become a leading nation in space. The fact that a woman happened to be one of the three really is not news worthy outside of China.
In what has to be regarded as one of the most underreported milestones of all time the Voyager 1 space probe has reached the edge of the solar system and will be the first man made object to venture into true interstellar space. At roughly 18 billion kilometers from the sun and traveling at about 17 kilometers a second the probe has had quite a journey that has seen it and its twin Voyager II travel to all of the giant planets in our solar system along with some 48 of their moons. Launched in 1977 and powered by plutonium that will keep the probe sending data back to earth until 2025 it also carries a message for any intelligent life form to come across it. The message in the form of a gold plated phono graph with greetings from earth was designed by a group led by the famed scientist Carl Sagan. The probe is so far away from earth that the data it transmits takes over 16 hours to reach earth. I realize that since it is not a manned mission many will not pay much attention to this and that is a shame because this truly is one of the great achievements in space exploration. Think about it, who knows what it might find out there?
There is a great article over at www.foreignpolicy.com that deals with problems the US military faces in confronting China. The article points out the obvious advantages China would have in any engagement, first and foremost it would take place on their turf. Unfortunately Chinese advantages go beyond that because they are playing in their backyard the Chinese will be able to accomplish their objectives, like threatening Taiwan with annihilation, without even leaving their own country by using thousands of land based missiles to literally rain destruction on Taiwan. To counter this America because of the vast distance from the US will have to use naval power to try to prevent this. However, with recent advances in Chinese anti-ship missile technology and because they can just swarm US ships with an unstoppable amount of missiles it will be difficult for the US to protect Taiwan. Have a look at this excerpt from the original article to get a better understanding of the problem.
“But Air-Sea Battle still faces enormous challenges in overcoming the “home court” advantage a continental power enjoys deploying its missile forces from hidden, dispersed, and hardened sites. In addition, the United States faces a steep “marginal cost” problem with an opponent like China; additional defenses for U.S. ships are more expensive than additional Chinese missiles. And China can acquire hundreds or even thousands of missiles for the cost of one major U.S. warship.
Given these structural weaknesses, Air-Sea Battle’s success will rely not on endlessly parrying the enemy’s missiles, but striking deeply at the adversary’s command posts, communications networks, reconnaissance systems, and basing hubs in order to prevent missiles from being launched in the first place. Such strikes would mean attacks on space systems, computer networks, and infrastructure, with implications for the broader civilian economy and society.Some critics of Air-Sea Battle reason that raising the stakes in this manner would make terminating a conflict much more difficult and would escalate the conflict into domains — such as space and cyber — that are particular vulnerabilities for the United States.”
So from reading that excerpt it is pretty clear that our side thinks it can win vs. China, but for this strategy to truly be successful China also needs to think the US will win otherwise they will actually be tempted to test their luck.
Yesterday was a special event in astronomy because the transit of venus took place and won’t happen again until the year 2117. The event occurs when the planet venus passes directly between the earth and sun according to the BBC’s website. We have a couple of pictures here to look at but you can check out this link for more in-depth coverage.
The US Airforce is rumored to have ordered the return to earth of its space plane the X-37B after spending about one year in space doing classified work. There has been much speculation as to what the mission of the space plane was from supposedly spying on Chinese satellites to acting as a spy satellite itself, but the truth is nobody outside the pentagon really knows.