China successfully launched their 6th manned spaceflight with Shenzhou 11 to Tiangong-2 space lab

Graphics shows the launching process of Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft.(Xinhua/Lu Zhe)

China launches manned spacecraft

China launched the Shenzhou XI manned spacecraft on Monday morning to transport two astronauts to the Tiangong II space laboratory.

The spacecraft was sent skyward at 7:30 am atop a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Northwest China. It is carrying two male astronauts – 49-year-old Jing Haipeng and 37-year-old Chen Dong.

After the launch, the spacecraft will travel two days before docking with the Tiangong II, which was lifted from the Jiuquan center in mid-September. Then the astronauts will enter the space lab and stay there for 30 days, which will be the longest space stay by Chinese astronauts.

The core tasks of the Shenzhou XI mission are to test rendezvous and docking technologies for the country’s planned space station, to verify the life-support capability of the spacecraft-space lab combination as well as conduct scientific research and test engineering experiments, according to Wu Ping, deputy director of the China Manned Space Agency.

Prior to the Shenzhou XI, China had sent five spacecraft and 10 astronauts to space since 2003, when it lifted the Shenzhou V to carry the nation’s first astronaut Yang Liwei, who is now a senior space official, into space.

China is the third country in the world that has independently fulfilled manned spaceflight following the former Soviet Union and the United States.

China’s manned space program, a source of national pride, aims to place a permanent manned space station, which will consist of three parts — a core module attached to two labs, each weighing about 20 metric tons —into service around 2022, according to the manned space agency.

Lab shows early results

After being launched into orbit on Sept 15, the scientific applications of the Tiangong II space laboratory have been tested and have returned data. Here are some of the results:

The cold atomic space clock, the first of its kind in space, has carried out several tests with stable results, as expected. Scientists believe that such a clock can help to synchronize other atomic clocks more precisely, and that the technological development will create more possibilities for further explorations in space.

The multi-angle wide-spectral imager has captured a range of information on oceans and land as well as changes to clouds, aerosols and water.

The stereoscopic microwave altimeter has applied interference image technology to observe sea surfaces, parts of the Yellow River, the Taklimakan Desert, lakes on the Tibetan Plateau and the Lancang-Mekong River.

An agricultural experiment has sprouted seeds of Arabidopsis thaliana, a small flowering plant, and rice. Samples will be cultivated in space and carried back to the Earth by astronauts.

The space-Earth quantum key distribution and laser communications experiment has established stable connections between the space lab and ground stations.

China to enhance space capabilities with launch of Shenzhou-11

Monday’s successful launch of the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft is another step forward to put China among leading players in space technology, said Alexander Zheleznyakov, a Russian expert on history of space flights.

The craft with two astronauts aboard is planned to dock with China’s second experimental space lab Tiangong-2 launched in mid-September.

The move marked China’s latest effort in a couple of months toward a space power, after successes in the maiden flight of its new generation carrier rocket Long March-7 in June, and the launch of the world’s first quantum satellite “Micius” in August, among other developments.

China’s achievements and programs in space missions, in particular the lunar exploration program that is well planned and steadily advanced with achievable goals, are impressive and admirable, said Zheleznyakov, who is also member of the Tsiolkovsky Russian Academy of Cosmonautics.

He thought that qualities of the Tiangong-2 space lab indicate the way how China would build its planned space station, which is similar to that of the International Space Station, by gradually docking other space modules with the basic cabin.

Zheleznyakov believed that China’s experimental space lab will help provide solutions for spacecraft of different functions to approach and dock, and for a long-term operation of life support system, among others, in order to increase both the safety of astronauts and the service life span of the space station.

He expected to see a node module at China’s future space station with multiple docking ports, compared to the only one currently at the Tiangong-2.

The Russian expert added that manned space missions can help push the development of other industries, especially high-tech ones, as space projects involve new materials, advanced application programs and innovative technical solutions, including cutting-edge results in many areas.

Igor Lisov, a prominent Russian space expert and an editor at the industry magazine Cosmonautics News, also spoke highly of China’s steady progress in its manned spaceflight programs.

With the achievements made, China can now test technologies for cargo spacecraft docking, life support system operation and water recycling, among others, so as to ensure a long-term continuous operation of its space station in future with less dependance on replenishment from the Earth, he said.

Sergey Zhukov, a test cosmonaut and president of the Moscow Space Club,said it will be the right choice for China to build a space station on the basis of the cylinder structure of the Tiangong-2 space lab.

On the prospects of China’s space station, Zhukov believed that advances in technology would likely turn future space station into a terminal to enable manned space missions further beyond as well as stopovers of spacecraft such as mooncraft for maintenance and cargo relays.

Broader space cooperation between Russia and China will benefit each other, he added. Xinhua

The future of the space race

The history of the space race goes back as early as the 1960s. Back then, the former Soviet Union and the United States were competing for the power of technological superiority.

But now, China has made it a 3-way race, with all three countries developing their respective space programs. However, the three countries are all headed in different directions, as each space program has its own aims and priorities.

Let’s take a closer look at what the future of the space race could look like.

The space race of the 1960’s between the former Soviet Union and the United States was about power, bragging rights which nation was technologically superior.

Today, the space race is well, maybe a brisk walk. And the three major space faring nations the U.S., China and Russia appear at this point, headed in different directions. So where are the big three going

Since the Shuttle Atlantis landed back at the Kennedy Space Center five years ago, the U.S. has not had the capability to put humans in space. You heard me right.

The U.S. relies on the Russians, at a cost of 65 million dollars a seat, to carry its astronauts to and from the International Space Station. That could change by 2018 when private companies Boeing and Space X should have vehicles ready to ferry astronauts.

With these Station missions turned over to private companies, NASA, the U.S. space agency is now concentrating on building a massive new rocket and a spacecraft, Orion, to carry astronauts first to an asteroid rendezvous and then Mars in the 2030s. Some U.S. partners would like to see a moon mission as a stepping stone to Mars. But NASA rarely uses the moon and Mars in the same sentence.

China on the other hand seems destined and determined to send humans to the moon.

Methodically and in measured steps, China is building toward a permanent presence in space. The Tiangong 2 Space Lab with improved living quarters and life support will be home to two Chinese astronauts for at least thirty days conducting experiments in physics, biology and space medicine.

A mission to put a lander on the moon’s dark side is in the works for 2018. And a permanent space station could be in orbit by the early 2020s. All are precursors to landing its astronauts on the moon.

Russia would like to go to the moon too. But the country’s struggling economy has forced a tightening of the space budget. Plans for a powerful new rocket that would take cosmonauts to the moon is delayed. But the Russians are still planning a sample return mission in the 2020’s and eyeing a 2030 lunar landing. A morale boost could come this week.

A joint Russia-European Space Agency probe is scheduled to deploy a rover to the Martian surface. Russia’s last successful planetary probe was in 1984. One unanswered question is whether Russia and United States will go their separate ways if the International Space Station’s mission ends as planned in 2024 or continue to play in the same sandbox.

What happens in the future with the big three space powers will likely come down to politics as it usually does. Outside of cooperation in space, the U.S.-Russia relationship is strained and that may well spill over into space relations.

China was never a part of the space station family of nations. And, the U.S. congress forbids NASA from cooperating with China. So, China has been going it alone quite nicely. But nobody is getting along very well. It is possible that by the middle of the next decade, all three will be going their own ways and perhaps all in different directions.

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China to send two astronauts to Tiangong-2 space lab tomorrow

Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng (L) and Chen Dong meet the media at a press conference at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, October 16, 2016. The two male astronauts will carry out the Shenzhou-11 mission. The Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft will be launched at 7:30 am October 17, 2016 Beijing Time (2330 GMT Oct. 16). Photo: Xinhua

Both astronauts introduced at press conference

China’s space program is set to launch its manned spacecraft the Shenzhou-11. Today authorities revealed the identities of the two astronauts that will be sent to space

China to launch Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft on Oct 17

The Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft will be launched at 7:30 a.m. Monday Beijing Time, China’s manned space program spokesperson said Sunday.

The spaceship will take two male astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong into space, said Wu Ping, deputy director of China’s manned space engineering office, at a press conference at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

The mission will be carried out with a Long March-2F carrier rocket, Wu said.

The spacecraft will dock with orbiting space lab Tiangong-2 within two days, and the astronauts will stay in the space lab for 30 days, she said.

After that the Shenzhou-11 spaceship will separate with Tiangong-2 and return to Earth within one day, Wu said.

The mission aims to transport personnel and materials between Earth and Tiangong-2, and examine rendezvous, docking and return technologies.

During the mission, the spacecraft will form a complex with Tiangong-2. The complex’s capabilities of supporting astronauts’ life, work and health, and astronauts’ abilities for carrying out flight missions will be tested, Wu said.

Other objectives include conducting aerospace medical experiments, space science experiments and in-orbit maintenance with human participation, along with activities to popularize scientific knowledge, she added.

Several technical alterations have been made to Shenzhou-11, though its main functions and technical parameters remain basically the same with Shenzhou-10, Wu said.

To meet the needs of this mission, the orbit control strategy and flight procedures have been adjusted to adapt Shenzhou-11 to the change of the rendezvous, docking and return orbit from 343 kilometers to 393 kilometers from Earth.

The layout of cargo loading has been adjusted to enhance transportation capabilities for the mission.

To further improve the spacecraft’s reliability and astronauts’ safety, wide-beam relay telecommunications devices have been equipped, which will significantly expand the scope of telemetry, tracking and control, as well as improve the space-ground communication support capabilities when the posture of the spacecraft is changing rapidly.

To verify future space technologies and meet the demand for prolonging the service life of rendezvous, telemetry and tracking devices in future space stations, such devices in Shenzhou-11 have been upgraded, according to Wu.

Certain technical alterations have also been made to the carrier rocket, she said. – Xinhua


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Internet addiction on the rise among Malaysian youths, Asians one of the most addicted to the Internet

Enough evidence to show links to anxiety, decreased job productivity, says expert.

CYBERJAYA: A 14-year-old boy loved gaming so much that he did not leave his home for half a year until his parents hauled him to therapy for Internet addiction.

This sounds like a story that happens in Japan, China or South Korea, where teenagers have died from binging on their computers. But this case happened right here in Kuala Lumpur.

At the International Society of Internet Addiction (Isia) Conference here, researchers said they were most worried that Malaysian youth were increasingly using the Internet in excess, with local studies revealing that 37% of Malaysian parents felt their children’s online life was interfering with their home and school obligations while 18% said their children were sacrificing basic social activities.

The research, led by child psychologist and Isia spokesperson Dr Norharlina Bahar, found that males under the age of 24, from the Klang Valley, Ipoh or Penang, were the most susceptible to Internet addiction in Malaysia.

“Most spend time on online games and browsing social media and there is enough evidence to show links to anxiety, depression, physical health problems, school disconnection, unemployment, decreased job productivity and social isolation,” she said.

Studies have also found frequent use of the Internet could translate to low self-esteem, depression, boredom and attention-deficit hyperactive disorder.

“There is no denying that Internet eases our life but when it affects your mental health capacity and interferes with your day-to-day work, then you need help,” she added.

In the case of the young boy, Dr Norharlina said he became irritable and angry when he was cut off from the digital world by his parents as part of the treatment.

“This is becoming a bigger problem now,” she said.

The challenge for the academic community is translating their data into tangible policies, as definitions of Internet addiction are still being worked out, she added.

That is something the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) is seeking to address, by adapting research on Internet addiction into guidelines that can be used by school counsellors or pa­rents to identify addiction in adolescents, said MCMC advocacy and outreach senior director Eneng Faridah Iskandar.

“We want to know when is usage going to be a problem. When should I start regulating my child’s use of the Internet? We want to develop self-help tips that parents can use,” she said.

The conference was attended by 200 researchers and psychologists from 10 countries to present their findings on Internet wellness and discuss policies to address the effects of the digital world on users’ health.

Asians one of the most addicted to the Internet

CYBERJAYA: The Middle East, North America and Asia have the highest number of people addicted to the Internet, said Hong Kong University (HKU) Psychology. Department Associate Dean Prof. Dr Cecelia Cheng.

Dr. Cheng, who presented the findings of a HKU study on Thursday said that findings suggest that the more a country experiences traffic jams, air pollution and low life satisfaction, the more likely its citizens will be addicted to the Internet.

She added that out of 31 countries surveyed, European and South American nations had the smallest number of people addicted to the Internet.

“Basically if the life satisfaction of a country is low, the people in that country are more likely to be addicted to the Internet, particularly gaming,” she said.

Speaking at the International Society of Internet Addiction (ISIA) conference here, Dr Cheng added that there was a link between countries that have high levels of air pollution and Internet addiction.

“The study suggests that the problem of Internet addiction could be linked with the external environment that drives people indoors. Low life satisfaction also suggests that people look to the Internet for escapism when they are dissatisfied with the outside world,” she said.

Dr Cheng pointed out that less people are addicted to the Internet in Europe because pollution and crime rates are generally lower.

“In Europe, and people there can afford to engage in more outdoor activities than those in the Middle East and Asia,” she said.

She added that improving the quality of environmental conditions might encourage residents to engage more in outdoor activities rather than relying solely on browsing the Internet at home for stress relief.

Malaysia was not surveyed in the HKU study, but local authorities suggested that Internet addiction was a rising trend here too.

According to the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), 50.4% of children already have a smartphone by the age of 12 and Malaysians have a 100.4% penetration rate for Internet connectivity and a 143% penetration rate for cellular use.

An ISIA study led by Dr Norharlina Bahar also found that the prevalence of problematic Internet users in Malaysia could be as high as 49.2%, with people spending at least five-hours in front of screens daily.

In last year’s World Happiness Index which measures a country’s general wellbeing, Malaysia ranked 61 out of 161 countries, behind Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.

By Nicholas Cheng The Star/ANN

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Giving a choice of education to our students in Malaysian school systems


We can have many different school systems, as long as they all teach ways to acquire relevant skills and knowledge.


“Educational reforms must be driven by those who want to ensure that our future generations are able to be relevant in a global environment, earn good incomes and contribute to the nation’s prosperity.”

THE Johor Sultan’s recent proposal for there to be a single school system for the country became the latest talking point amongst teachers last week. The Sultan’s proposal, among other things, entails the use of English as a medium of instruction.

In the public space, the discussion went off tangent straight away. Some were quick to defend the present system because they said we need to preserve the vernacular schools, which in turn are meant to ensure the preservation of Chinese and Indian culture and their respective mother tongues.

These supporters seemed to suggest that without vernacular schools, the people of these respective ethnic groups would lose their cultures and languages altogether.

There are some primary-level vernacular schools in rural parts of India that are intended for the continued use of their mother tongue. However, students have the flexibility of transferring to English-medium schools at the secondary level. This flexibility enables Indian education to be largely singular in its system, with a wide use of English as medium of instruction.

Unfortunately, our view of vernacular schools is tied to a political idea: that politicians of a particular ethnic group are required to defend these vernacular schools – regardless of their actual usefulness and value to their communities – as an indicator of their care and concern for the welfare of their communities. Education becomes a political tool.

Middle-class parents want the present system to be retained because the approach taken by successive Ministers of Education has essentially been to privatise education. Hundreds of licences for private schools have been issued, and even international schools are now open to locals with the means to afford them for their children.

So this wealthy group does not mind the present system because for them at least, education is now isolated from the mainstream ; and they are thus able to have what some of them believe to be a superior method of teaching children, and imparting the right kind of education.

Others who want a single system insist on vernacular schools being abolished, and in their place “a Malay (national) centric system” where schools can impart lessons on loyalty and patriotism with more vigour. They argue that we still need to instil patriotism, unity and racial harmony in our pupils and students.

They believe that a sufficient amount of indoctrination is necessary to turn our young into “true Malaysians”, while religious classes and adequate prayer halls will shape Malay children into good Muslims (since we now seek to be Syariah-compliant in everything we do).

We can safely say that under the present political setup, no government will dare abolish vernacular schools. So if national schools become more “Malay” and more Islamic, we can expect more vernacular schools to mushroom all over the country, keeping pace with private schools (local and international ) as they seek to attract ever-larger numbers of students whose parents have “no confidence” in the national school system.

We can have as many systems in our schools as we like, as long as the “one” overriding component in any system that matters is the idea that schools are for teaching students to acquire deep knowledge and skills relevant to the present world.

Schools of the 21st century do not exist primarily to build national unity, to foster narrow nationalism, or to protect any mother tongue. They are not designed to make you “a better person” or religious and sin-free, for that matter.

Today’s education is primarily about having the right skills to get jobs, as the effect of globalisation and new artificial intelligence will be taking a lot of our work away, and may ultimately make us all redundant if we are not prepared. In that context, education must be about giving our children relevant, useful and productive skills.

If the characteristics of the national school were to be modelled on those found in Switzerland, Finland or Singapore, for example, (with some modifications, of course), that would be acceptable because their focus is on producing students with skills that are useful in this present environment.

The diversity of available subjects, with options given to parents to decide on issues such as language, can accommodate different aspirations without compromising on quality or the schools’ central mission.

I recently met a Finnish teacher in Helsinki who was proud to tell me that almost all Finnish students speak three European languages, although there is no compulsion to do so in their school system.

According to this teacher, they have to be multilingual because then their job opportunities become much wider. Necessity always produces better education systems and methods.

Mother tongues can be kept alive through their regular use in a modern education system, without having vernacular schools. Let’s face it: having a poor and mediocre Tamil school system with low enrolment will not do much to help preserve the language and culture of the Tamil community. The only people who benefit are Tamil politicians.

Today’s education produces well-rounded children who will get jobs. It’s when they have no jobs that we worry, no matter how well they can speak their mother tongue.

Educational reforms must be driven by those who want to ensure that our future generations are able to be relevant in a global environment, earn good incomes and contribute to the nation’s prosperity.

By Zaid Ibrahim All kinds of everything

Former de facto Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim ( is now a legal consultant. The views expressed here are entirely his own.


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Xiamen University shaping up to be the largest foreign university campus in Malaysia

 Xiamen University Malaysia Campus

Video: First ever Chinese overseas campus opens in Kuala Lumpur

CCTV News – English

In Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, students have this week been enrolling at the first Chinese university to open a campus overseas.

Officials feel it is more than just an educational ventune, it is also a way to advance good relations between China and its southeast Asian neighbors, as well as promoting the inclusive Belt & Road initiative.

A specially chartered Xiamen Airlines plane brought this special, first group of students to Kuala Lumpur. In all, 440 students from 14 Chinese provinces will be arriving this week to take their places at the emerging new campus of Xiamen University in Malaysia. They all scored top marks in China’s university entry exams and chose to be part of this pioneering educational venture.

“In terms of the quality, in terms of the size of the batch of students, and in terms of the procedures, this is unprecedented in terms of Malaysia’s tertiary education history. So it’s really a big day for us too,” said Professor Wang Ruifang President, Xiamen University Malaysia.

A specially chartered Xiamen Airlines plane brought this special, first batch of students to Kuala Lumpur.

A specially chartered Xiamen Airlines plane brought this special, first batch of students to Kuala Lumpur.

It’s also a big day for the students.

“First is excited, because it’s an opportunity for me to develop, and it’s an opportunity for me to enjoy the cultural diversity,” said Zhu Wen, student, Xiamen University Malaysia.

The Chinese students will join students from Malaysia and later around South East Asia. Numbers will eventually swell to 10,000 at what is shaping up to be the largest foreign university campus in Malaysia. All courses will be taught in English, except for Chinese studies and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

At a recent meeting with Southeast Asian leaders, Chinese premier Li Keqiang said China wants to strengthen its relationship with ASEAN in a number of key areas, including people to people ties, and in particular, education.

The university says it hopes to advance that aim as well as China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, something the Chinese students are well aware of.

“The Malaysia campus is based on China’s Belt and Road initiative so I think to come to the Malaysia campus is to put our hands on the ark of history and combine historical process and our personal development together,” said Wu Hanyang, student.

A lofty goal, perhaps, but in keeping with what this campus is really about: Meeting the highest academic standards while helping China and ASEAN deepen their social, cultural, strategic and economic cooperation.

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Tiangong-2 space lab draws global praise, with the world’s first “cold” atomic clock on board

NASA closely watches Tiangong-2 launch

  •  NASA closely watches Tiangong-2 launch. The space industry has paid close attention as China sent the Tiangong-2 lab into space. NASA is watching the Tiangong-2, as well as China’s space program in general. It says the launch marks another step on China’s long march to a permanent orbital outpost. Former…

    China on Thursday hurled its first Tiangong-2 lab into space, marking another step forward in the country’s plans to establish a permanent station by the early 2020s.

    China’s rapid development in space exploration within the past decade has impressed the world. Martin Barstow, director of Leicester Institute of Space & Earth Observation at the University of Leicester, told Xinhua in a recent interview that China’s developing space program is another major milestone towards establishing a permanent presence in space.

    “The earlier success of the first space station (Tiangong-1) shows how the program is developing and the new space laboratory will continue to add to China’s status as a major space power,” the professor said.

    Former NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao, the first Chinese-American to be commander of the International Space Station, hailed Tiangong-2 as “another significant step for China’s human spaceflight program.”

    “China is moving in a very deliberate and orderly fashion to advance their space capability,” Chiao said. “I think the technology is good, and they are moving to get more operational experience through TG-2, before the beginning of space station construction.”

    Barstow also spoke highly of China’s space capability, saying “China is already a key player in the international space industry,” and Tiangong-2 will “enhance” its well-developed space capability.

    Gao Yang, director of Surrey Technology for Autonomous Systems and Robotics (STAR) Lab, said manned spaceflight is of indicative significance in space technology, and China’s rapid development in this area is well-known.

    British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) said in an article published on Thursday that “Beijing has made space exploration a national priority and is the third country, after the Soviet Union and the U.S., to put astronauts into space.”


    In different interviews Xinhua carried with space experts, all mentioned the need for international cooperation in space exploration. Space station programs have always been a cradle for countries to work together, Gao said.

    Such collaboration has been vividly reflected in the Tiangong-2 mission, which carries, among a number of scientific experiments, an astrophysics detector that is the first space-science experiment built jointly by China with European countries.

    POLAR, dedicated to establishing whether the photons from Gama ray bursts (GRBs) — thought to be a particularly energetic type of stellar explosion — are polarized, was built largely with Swiss funding, and with the collaboration of Swiss, China and Polish scientists and support from the European Space Agency (ESA), according to the British journal Nature.

    POLAR project manager Nicolas Produit, who spoke to Nature, said U.S. law bars NASA from doing joint projects with China’s space agencies, but the Chinese Academy of Sciences is discussing a number of other collaborative space projects with the ESA.

    Gregory Kulacki, senior analyst and China project manager at the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists’ Global Security Program, said that it is encouraging that China intends to solicit international participation in its space station project.

    “My hope is that the United States and China will, at an appropriate time in the future, find a way to cooperate in the peaceful exploration of space instead of competing to turn it into a battlefield, as they are now,” he said.

    Chiao said international coperation is “a common point of interest that helps improve overall relationships. The International Space Station is a great example of that. Many nations came together to build the amazing facility, and we are working together to further science. This helps to improve overall relations between the member countries.”

    Barstow believed that more and more countries are seeing the importance of space activity but this will not turn into a race. He said that to benefit smaller economies, a growth of space activity across the world will need to be nurtured by the major agencies like ESA, NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscomos) and China National Space Administration (CNSA).


    China has been actively developing a three-step manned space program since the first decade of the 21st century.

    The program’s first mission took place in 1999 with the launch of the Shenzhou-1 to examine the performance and reliability of the launcher and verify key technologies relating to capsule connection and separation, heat prevention, control and landing.

    The first step, to send an astronaut into space and return safely, was fulfilled by Yang Liwei in the Shenzhou-5 mission in 2003.

    The second step was developing advanced space flight techniques and technologies including extra-vehicular activity and orbital docking. This phase also includes the launch of two space laboratories — effectively mini space-stations that can be manned on a temporary basis.

    The next step will be to assemble and operate a permanent manned space station.

    China will begin building a space station that is more economically efficient and uses more data than the current International Space Station (ISS), starting as early as 2017, chief engineer of China’s manned space program Zhou Jianping told Xinhua on Thursday.

    With the ISS set to retire in 2024, the Chinese space station will offer a promising alternative, and it will make China the only country to have a permanent space station after the  ISS. -Xinhua

    China launched first ‘cold’ atomic clock aboard second space station

    Every clock on Earth is flawed. Even science’s most accurate atomic clocks are beholden to our planet’s gravitational pull, and end up slowing down ever so slightly over time. That’s why researchers from Shanghai decided to send one up into space.

    On Sept. 15, Chinese researchers launched a cold atomic clock into orbit around Earth, where it will only slow down by one second every billion years, as opposed to every 300 million years like the current gold-standard of atomic clocks. The Cold Atomic Clock in Space (Cacs), as it is called, will likely become humanity’s most accurate timekeeping device.

    Atomic clocks are largely used for calibrating extremely sensitive electronics, like global positioning systems (GPS), or conducting experiments in hyper accuracy-dependent disciplines like particle physics and geology. According to the South China Morning Post, the Chinese government intends to use Cacs to improve their own national GPS, which currently operates at levels below the system employed by the US.

    Atomic clocks were originally created to run on the exact measure of a second as agreed upon by the entire scientific community. Seconds used to be measured as a tiny fraction of a day. The trouble is, the average day includes a lot of variation, depending on where you are and the earth’s axial wobble, caused by its magnetic poles and, more recently, melting ice sheets.

    Scientists realized that the way that electrons (the tiny negatively charged particles that surround atoms) jump back and forth between different energy states in molecules or atoms, was a much more precise way of calculating a second. These oscillations end up appearing like vibrations that occur at a constant rate—as long as molecules or atoms are at a constant temperature. Since 1967, the official definition of a second has been “9,192,631,770 vibrations of a cesium 133 atom.”

    Laser-cooled “cold” atomic clocks are generally considered to be the most accurate clocks that exist—other clocks and watches, like the kind anyone could buy in a store, tend to slow down over time. Although it’s often just a couple of seconds, that inconsistency won’t do in a research setting.

    But alas, on Earth, even cold atomic clocks are prone to slowing down ever so slightly. Because of the force Earth’s gravity applies to atoms, the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s NIST-F2 atomic clock in Boulder, Colorado will slow down by a second every 300 million years.

    Cacs, which will orbit our planet gravity-free, will use rubidium atom vibrations to keep time, and will slow down much more slowly than Earth-bound atomic clocks. It’s also a lot smaller—about the size of the trunk of a car, whereas the NIST-F2 takes up an entire room.

    Cacs was sent into space on the second Chinese space laboratory, called Tiangong-2, launched from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in Inner Mongolia. Although there are currently no humans aboard, the China National Space Administration plans to send two astronauts to the lab in October to conduct various experiments for a month, as the next step towards launching a full-fledged space station in 2020. – Quartz @

    China launched its second space station, Tiangong-2, from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China’s Gobi desert on Thursday with the world’s first “cold” atomic clock on board – representing a pivotal step in China’s plan to become a major player in the modern-day space race.

    Two astronauts are set arrive at the station in October where they will spend one month completing experiments. Running the Cold Atomic Clock in Space, one of 14 different experiments planned for the station’s two-year orbital stint, aims to determine if escaping the effects of gravity increases the accuracy of the timepiece.

    “It is the world’s first cold atomic clock to operate in space … it will have military and civilian applications,” Professor Xu Zhen, a scientist involved with the atomic clock project, told the South China Morning Post.

    China to launch world’s first ‘cold’ atomic clock in space … and it’ll stay … › News › China South China Morning Post

    Atomic clocks, some of which are so accurate that it would take billions of years to drift off by even a second, are used to conduct sensitive experiments across a variety of scientific fields and calibrate electronics used by global positioning systems.

    To keep time, these clocks rely on measuring the natural vibration rates of atoms and the scientific definition of a second: 9,192,631,770 vibrations of a cesium 133 atom. China’s cold clock will use a laser to slow down the atom and thus lessen the likelihood of the timekeeper missing one of the atom’s rotations and introducing an error, according to the South China Morning Post.

    Additionally China hopes that sending the cold clock into space and freeing the timekeeping atoms from their ties to gravity will make it more accurate than other atomic clocks currently keeping time around the world and make it capable of measuring fluctuations in microgravity.

    The station will serve as a laboratory for a variety of experiments across scientific disciplines that China expects to culminate in launching its own equivalent of the International Space Station (ISS).

    “The launch of Tiangong-2 will lay a solid foundation for the building and operation of a permanent space station in the future,” Wu Ping, deputy director of China’s manned space engineering office, said during a prelaunch briefing, according to Xinhua.

    China is not a member of the international consortium that operates the ISS (and isn’t allowed to send its astronauts to the station), so it is planning to build its own permanent space station, which at an estimated 60 tons will be 380 tons lighter than the ISS.

    China’s president, Xi Jinpin called on engineers and scientists to help advance the Chinese space program at a Space Day celebration earlier this year.

    “In establishing Space Day, we are commemorating history, passing on the spirit, and galvanising popular enthusiasm for science, exploration of the unknown and innovation, particularly among young people,” Xi said at the celebration, according to The Economic Times. “Becoming an aerospace power has always been a dream we’ve been striving for.”

    China’s ambitious goals for space exploration in the coming years include plans to study the yet-unexplored dark side of the moon, and a mission to Mars that will not only orbit the Red Planet, but land and deploy a rover. Both missions are scheduled to launch in 2020.

    Dean Cheng, a Chinese space policy expert at the Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C., told New Scientist that Thursday’s launch is about national pride – “a reminder that China has a manned space program, including the ability to put its own astronauts into space, something the Americans cannot do [without assistance from Russia].” – Source: Christian Science Monitor

    Astronauts given comfort upgrade on China’s new space lab


    New space lab will be equipped with Bluetooth, better lighting, sound dampening, exercise equipment and other features

    China’s newest space laboratory, Tiangong II, will provide more comfortable digs to astronauts living aboard than its predecessor, Tiangong I, the spacecraft’s designers said.

    Zhu Zongpeng, chief designer of Tiangong II at China Academy of Space Technology, said designers aimed to create an astronaut-friendly environment in every regard when they refitted the space lab that was developed based on Tiangong I.

    “We considered many factors including the sound, lighting, inner decorations as well as support facilities. For instance, we installed a foldable, multifunctional table that can be used for dining and experiments. We also equipped the astronauts with Bluetooth headsets and Bluetooth speakers,” he said.

    “A number of particulars were taken into account-the carpet in Tiangong I was replaced with floorboards. The light is softer and its brightness can be adjusted. Each astronaut has a bed lamp,” Zhu added.

  • Astronauts given comfort upgrade on China's new space lab
    space lab Tiangong II roars into the air on the back of a Long March-2F
    rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Northwest China,
    Sept 15, 2016. [Photo/Xinhua]


    The Tiangong II consists of two cabins with separate functions-the experiment cabin will be hermetically sealed and will act as the astronauts’ living quarters, while the resource cabin will contain solar panels, storage batteries, propellant and engines.

    Liao Jianlin, a senior engineer at the academy who took part in Tiangong II’s development, said the lab has about 15 square meters for astronauts to live and work, including a separate sleep section and waste storage area.

    He said engineers installed muffler devices in the spacecraft to ensure its inner sound is kept under 50 decibels. Environmental controls will keep the temperature within the experiment cabin between 22 C and 24 C and the humidity between 45 and 55 percent.

    In addition, Tiangong II has an air detector capable of checking for and dealing with more than 20 hazardous gases and microbes.

    Furthermore, designers placed exercise equipment in the space lab such as a treadmill, exercise bike and acupuncture point massager to help astronauts keep healthy, according to Liao.

    He said its communications systems also allow astronauts to receive and reply to emails and make calls to family and friends.

  • Astronauts given comfort upgrade on China's new space lab 

    Space lab to cross five-year mark.

    China’s space lab Tiangong-2 may serve for more than five years and co-exist with its first space station, scheduled for completion around 2020, an expert at the space programme said.

    China successfully launched Tiangong-2 on a Long March-2F T2 rocket, blasting off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the northwest Gobi Desert on Thursday.

    With a designed life of two years, Tiangong-2 was originally built as a backup to Tiangong-1, which completed its mission in March, said Zhu Congpeng, chief designer of Tiangong-2.

    “But we expect Tiangong-2 to serve for more than five years given the introduction of an in-orbit propellant technique for the first time,” Zhu said.

    In April 2017, China’s first cargo spaceship Tianzhou-1 will be sent into orbit to dock with the space lab, providing fuel and other supplies.

    “If the fuel-supply experiment goes well, we will become the second after Russia to master the in-orbit propellant technique,” Zhu said.

    While in space, the 8.6-tonne space lab will manoeuvre itself into orbit about 393km above Earth surface.

    “As it is higher than past space missions, the Tiangong-2 will be more cost-effective and have a longer lifespan,” said Zhu. — Xinhua

    Beyond borders


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N. Korea nuclear test short of strategic deterrent, blame it on THAAD

North Korea’s official media announced today the country had successfully conducted a nuclear test, confirming international media reports that Pyongyang had carried out its fifth nuclear test. A 5.0-magnitude earthquake in North Korea was detected by overseas monitoring services. South Korea claims the explosion was equivalent to about 10,000 tons of TNT, the most powerful one North Korea has tested thus far.

Today’s test happened only eight months after the claimed hydrogen bomb test of January, the shortest time span between any two previous tests. Two weeks ago, North Korea conducted a submarine-launched ballistic missile test, and a few days ago it launched three missiles.

Pyongyang seems to be set to intimidate the US and South Korea, who are exerting more military pressure. It is also trying to force the international community to abandon their efforts to seek a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. But the efforts only drew a backlash. It has created anger and embarrassment, but unlikely to scare the outside world. The other five countries of the Six-Party Talks, which are now in a deadlock, are unlikely to make concessions.

North Korea should bear in mind that nuclear weapons are only a strategic deterrent tool and cannot be resorted to. North Korea has scarce resources and its economy is limited, therefore, even if it has the ability to make nuclear bombs, the number of its nuclear arsenal would be small, so it could not reach the minimum threshold of a global nuclear power. Its nuclear capability would pale in comparison with the nuclear prowess of the US. The US believes if North Korea uses nuclear weapons first, it would lead to its destruction. North Korea is not capable of ensuring an effective strike-back after being hit by a nuclear weapon. Several factors combined, North Korea cannot build a nuclear deterrent in the traditional sense.

Look at how much Pyongyang has sacrificed to develop nuclear weapons. It has become the world’s most isolated country. It is suffering from extreme economic difficulties and sees no hope of getting out of trouble any time soon. No North Korean leader has visited China in the past few years. Its top leader diplomacy is almost zero. Owning nuclear weapons appears to have added a strategic tool for North Korea. But the severance of diplomatic channels means the “growth in national strength” cannot transform to influence.

Northeast Asia is in a mess. The THAAD issue has led to a stalemate between China and the US-South Korea alliance. North Korea is taking advantage of this, hastening its nuclear tests. Seoul believes the new North Korean tests make it more necessary for the US to deploy the THAAD missile system.

They are all wrong. What they are doing will only drag Northeast Asia into deeper chaos. The Korean Peninsula will become an even more dangerous powder keg.

Owning nuclear weapons won’t ensure North Korea’s political security. On the contrary, it is poison that is slowly suffocating the country. It is turning into a country possibly with one or two nuclear bombs but nothing else – no prosperity, no opening up, no confidence in national security. Pyongyang will have to always be on alert.

North Korea has not become any stronger because of its fifth nuclear test. The Korean Peninsula nuclear issue knot has merely tightened.

It’s North Korea’s national day on Friday. We understand how eager the country wants to boost morale and enhance national cohesion. But the nuclear weapon that’s more like a firework for the North Korean people may well become one that signals a new crisis. We sincerely hope North Korea is aware of the situation and open to advice. Global Times

Blame DPRK’s fifth nuke test on THAAD

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said on Friday, its 68th National Day, that it “successfully” tested a nuclear warhead in the morning. This is the fifth nuclear test conducted by Pyongyang since 2006 and the second this year. The DPRK only on Wednesday rejected a UN Security Council statement condemning its latest missile tests and threatened to take “further significant measures”.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a statement censuring Friday’s nuclear test and urging the DPRK to meet its denuclearization commitments.

In the Republic of Korea, the presidential office reportedly held a National Security Council meeting on Friday afternoon after “a seismic event” of magnitude 5.3 was detected near the DPRK’s northeastern nuclear test site.

The nuclear test carried out by the DPRK on Friday should not come as a big surprise given the planned deployment of the US’ Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system in the ROK. In other words, the almost confirmed deployment of THAAD, an anti-missile defense system, has prompted Pyongyang to continue its ill-designed foreign policy.

Judging by its latest nuclear test, the DPRK still stands firm on its strategic misreading, believing that by developing nuclear weapons it will pressure the United States to respond to its concerns. That also explains why the DPRK has conducted missile tests this year even though THAAD might not necessarily pose a major threat to it.

Besides, a nuclear test on the 68th National Day of the DPRK also has a noteworthy political implication – that top leader Kim Jong-un will keep expanding the country’s nuclear arsenal.

But it does not suggest the situation on the Korean Peninsula is out of control, because Pyongyang’s nuclear efforts usually follow US and ROK military moves.

China is determined to divert this trajectory toward a peaceful direction. But admittedly, China’s strategic choices in the face of a rising nuclear threat in the neighborhood are limited because of the geopolitical complexity and the denuclearization process may take five to 10 years to complete. So Beijing has been urging all parties concerned to make more concerted efforts to becalm the ensuing turbulence.

Washington and Seoul, in particular, should sincerely rethink their decision to install THAAD on the peninsula and review their other strategic mistakes that have prompted Pyongyang to make the wrong steps.

A vicious cycle is in the making between the US and the ROK on one side and the DPRK on the other, which can make peaceful reunification of the peninsula even more unlikely. In fact, if tensions continue to rise on the peninsula, the DPRK and the ROK will eventually be the worst victims.

The peninsula policies adopted by the US and the ROK are not conducive to lasting peace, as they have exhausted the very few opportunities to replace the 1953 armistice with a peace treaty.

As US President Barack Obama will leave office in four months and his ROK counterpart Park Geun-hye faces a presidential election next year, there is hope their successors (if there is one in the ROK) would make a difference and forge a permanent peace and security mechanism with China.

The author is a researcher in Asia-Pacific strategy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The article is an excerpt from his interview with China Daily’s Cui Shoufeng.

By Wang Junsheng (China Daily)

The author is a researcher in Asia-Pacific strategy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The article is an excerpt from his interview with China Daily’s Cui Shoufeng.

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