China builds nuclear-powered deep-sea station


Not content with ambitious plans to dominate space exploration over the coming decades, China is also looking to master the ocean with the development of a deep-sea station which could be its first step towards large-scale underwater mining.

Plans for the nuclear powered mobile deep-sea station were unveiled earlier this year by China Ship Scientific Research Centre – the state-owned venture whose Jiaolong manned submersible recently reached depths of over 7,000 metres – according to South China Morning Post.

The craft would have dimensions of 60.2m x 15.8m x 9.7m, weigh about 2,600 tonnes, and have enough room for 33 crew members.

It would have propellers to move submarine-like underwater and several ports to allow smaller craft to dock with it, the report said.

On that note, a smaller prototype which could carry 12 crew on an 18-day expedition is currently in production, with an expected delivery date of 2015.

While China’s plans in space appear to revolve heavily around military strategy, its deep sea efforts have more to do with the country finding an answer to its current energy problems.

Drilling for oil and mining copper and other natural resources both appear to be high on the list of China’s deep-sea priorities, although technological limitations may hold back advances in the project for some time, the report claims.

When China wants something it usually succeeds in the end, however, so it would not be out of the question to see the launch of a full-sized deep-sea station by 2030, according to SCMP.

As with most elements of Chinese technology innovation, the PLA is never too far away – this deep-sea project is apparently funded by 863 Program, a hi-tech state scheme.

By Phil Muncaster

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China plans nuclear deep-sea mining base

A Chinese company is set to build a nuclear-powered mobile deep-sea station in the western Pacific, according to local reports.

The China Ship Scientific Research Centre’s proposed station — which will have huge propellers to enable free movement in the ocean depths — will be manned by 33 crew for up to two months at a time and powered by a nuclear reactor.

Its main goal, according to reports in the South China Sea Post, will be to mine for precious metals. The nation, which recently announced it is stockpiling rare earth elements amid fears of shortages, would use the facilities to hunt mainly for copper, lead, zinc, silver, gold and oil.

Underwater mining is typically a costly affair, full of potential dangers and problems. Canadian-owned Nautilus Minerals Inc was the first commercial copper-gold mining venture to be granted permission to explore the Bismarck Sea floor surrounding Papua New Guinea, but has already run into problems with environmentalists warning the mining could destroy marine life and cause devastating oil spills. China’s Tongling Non-ferrous Metals Group had signed up as the project’s very first customer in April 2012, but a dispute with Papua New Guinea also stands to halt the mining project’s 2013 launch completely

The Chinese company appears to be wary of these issues, and is therefore treading carefully, with plans for the bold venture slated for a more reasonable 2030 launch — according to experts the South China Sea Post spoke to — and a smaller 12-crew prototype capable of 18-day dives set to launch by 2015. The larger 60-metre-long craft will weigh in at 2,600 tonnes.

In preparation, the China Ship Scientific Research Centre has been engaging in test dives of manned vehicles — its Jiaolong model reached a record-breaking 7,020 metres at the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean on the same day that China’s Shenzhou-9 spacecraft docked at the Tiangong 1 space station.

Reports suggest that the project is being funded by the state’s 863 Program, a fund specifically for the development of innovative technologies, which has links with the military. Nevertheless, mining for oil and copper seem to be the most likely priorities on the agenda, with crew on the station able to spend two months at a time living and mining underwater.

Shanghai is hosting the 41st Underwater Mining Institute conference October 2012, and further details could potentially be revealed then. In the meantime, a look at the China Ship Scientific Research Centre’s website reveals fields of interest that range from manned submersibles such as the Jiaolong vessel to atmospheric one-man diving suits and autonomous underwater robots — the latter would be exponentially beneficial in aiding aquanauts during danger-filled underwater mining missions.

The centre also appears to be keen on waterslides. Definitely one to watch.

By Liat Clark WIRE. UK. CO

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China achieves double record-breaker: Sky-high and abyss-deep sea!


Chinese Astronauts Manually Dock Spacecraft at Orbiting Module in National First

  This still from a CNTV bradcast shows the view from a camera aboard China’s Shenzhou 9 space capsule shows the spacecraft just after it was manually docked to the Tiangong 1 space lab by astronaut Liu Wang on June 24, 2012.
CREDIT: CNTV/CCTV

Three Chinese astronauts manually docked their space capsule at an orbiting module Sunday (June 24), a major first for China’s space program and the country’s plans to build a large space station.

The astronauts docked their Shenzhou 9 spacecraft with the unmanned Tiangong 1 module 213 miles (343 kilometers) above Earth. It was the second orbital linkup in a week for the two spacecraft, which performed China’s first automated space docking June 18.

Shenzhou 9’s astronauts Liu Wang, Jing Haipeng and Liu Yang — who is China’s first female astronaut — are the fourth Chinese crew to fly in space. The astronauts launched into orbit on June 16, atop a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China’s northern Gansu province.

Tiangong 1 has been in orbit since September 2011, and was part of China’s first robotic docking with the unmanned Shenzhou 8 capsule in November. The Shenzhou 9 crew made their first docking with Tiangong 1 June 18, marking the first time a manned Chinese spacecraft has docked with another vehicle in orbit. [Shenzhou 9: China’s 1st Manned Space Docking (Pictures)]

Shenhzhou 9 astronauts celebrate manual docking with Tiangong 1 space lab.
The three astronauts aboard China’s Shenzhou 9 spacecraft grasp hands to celebrate their successful manned docking with the Tiangong 1 orbiting module on June 24, 2012. At center is astronaut Liu Wang, who piloted the successful docking. Mission commander Jing Haipeng is at left with astronaut Liu Yang, China’s first female astronaut, at right.
CREDIT: China Manned Space Engineering

Earlier today, the astronauts undocked the two spacecraft and flew Shenzhou 9 about 1,300 feet (400 meters) away. They then maneuvered their capsule by hand, with Liu Wang at the helm, back into docking configuration with Tiangong 1 at 12:48 p.m. China Standard Time, or 12:48 a.m. EDT (0448 GMT).

“The success of the manual rendezvous and docking mission represents another important phase achievement of the Shenzhou 9 and Tiangong 1 rendezvous and docking mission,” Wu Ping, spokeswoman of the China Manned Space Program, said during a press briefing following the docking. “The three astronauts will once again enter the orbiting module of Tiangong 1 to carry out scientific experiments.”

The mission’s docking maneuvers are a milestone in the development of China’s manned space program, which flew its first astronaut in space in 2003. Tiangong 1 (which means “Heavenly Palace” in Chinese) is a prototype for China’s first manned space station, which officials say will be functional by 2020.

China is the third country after Russia and the United States to fly astronauts into space.

After today’s docking, the Shenzhou 9 astronauts (known as taikonauts) received a message from a group of Chinese oceanauts who are setting records not above the ground but below it.

“We wish for a great success of the manual docking and brilliant achievements in China’s manned space and manned deep-sea dive causes,” read a message sent by three crewmembers aboard the Chinese submersible Jiaolong, 7,015 meters (23,000 feet) beneath the Pacific Ocean in the Mariana Trench, the deepest spot on Earth, state-run newspaper Xinhua reported.

The oceanaut crew set a new deep-diving record for China on June 22.

Shenzhou 9 and Tiangong 1 are due to stay connected for four more days, with the crew departing June 28 and landing back on Earth June 29.

By Clara Moskowitz, SPACE.com  Assistant Managing Editor
Date: 24 June 2012 Time: 08:08 AM ET

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China marks first manned space docking

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China achieved another milestone in its space program as the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft successfully completed its second docking with the Tiangong-1 space lab module by hand. This was China’s first ever manned manual space docking.

Ten meters, five meters, three.

It was a moment astronaut Liu Wang had practiced for, more than 1.500 times. And he knew he could do it.

Photo taken on June 24, 2012 shows the screen at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center showing Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft parting from the orbiting Tiangong-1 space lab to prepare for the country’s first manual space docking. The spacecraft and the space lab were joined together by an automated docking on June 18. (Xinhua/Zha Chunming)

Liu said, “I’m 100% sure of a successfully operation. Because I can’t fail.”

Dubbed the “space needle threading” mission, the astronauts had to carefully adjust the craft’s trajectory with very little margin for error.

It all culminated in the historic moment.

Shenzhou-9’s docking ring makes contact with the Tiangong-1 and a tight seal is formed as the connection between the craft is secured.

It was even more accurate than the first automated docking of Shenzhou-9 and Tiangong-1.

The State Council Information office then announced the success of the mission.

Wu Ping, spokeswoman for State Council Information Office said, “I can announce that the first Chinese manned docking of the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft and the Tiangong-1 space lab module has been successfully completed.”

A big success, but it’s not over yet.

After the docking, the astronauts entered Tiangong-1 for another four days of experiments.

Following this, they’ll return to Shenzhou-9’s re-entry module, to prepare for the journey back to earth.

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China’s Jiaolong sets new deep sea dive record

Good news came as the crew of the Jiaolong submersible surpassed the country’s dive record by going deeper than 7,000 meters after a successful test dive in the Pacific Ocean on Sunday morning.

A record breaking moment.

Jiaolong, China’s manned submersible successfully completed a dive of 7,015 meters below sea level at around 11 am local time, 8:55 am Beijing time. It’s the craft’s fourth dive into the Mariana Trench.

China’s manned submersible Jiaolong is put into water to make the fourth dive into the sea at the Mariana Trench on June 24, 2012. Chinese scientists refreshed the country’s dive record in a manned submersible by going to 7,000 meters beneath the sea after a successful test dive in the Pacific Ocean Sunday morning. The Jiaolong, China’s manned submersible named after a mythical sea dragon, succeeded in diving 7,015 meters below sea level at 11 a.m. local time during its fourth dive into the Mariana Trench. Three oceanauts conducted the dive, which started at 7 a.m. local time in heavy rain. (Xinhua/Luo Sha)

The submersible then went on to finally reach a maximum depth of 7,020 meters below sea level.

The three oceanauts sent greetings from the bottom of the deep blue sea to the three astronauts in outer space, who were about to carry out their manual docking of Shenzhou-9 with the orbiting Tiangong-1 lab module.

“We wish the Shenzhou-9 crew success with the manual docking and great achievements for China’s manned space and deep-sea dive missions.”

Various samples and video footage have been taken during the deep sea mission to benefit future scientific research.

Jiaolong returned safely on Sunday afternoon.

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China submersible breaks 7,000-metre mark
by Bill Savadove

This file photo, taken in 2011, shows the Chinese submersible ‘Jiaolong.’ The submersible broke through the 7,000-metre mark in an ocean dive on Sunday, state media said, setting a new national record for China.

A manned Chinese submersible broke through the 7,000-metre mark for a new national record on Sunday, state media said, as the rising Asian nation showed off its technological might.

The “Jiaolong” craft dived 7,015 metres (23,015 feet) in the in the western Pacific Ocean on its fourth dive since arriving in the area earlier this month, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The dive came on the same day as was attempting its first manual space docking, a complex manoeuvre that will bring the country a step closer to building a space station.

“This (dive) shows the performance of the submersible is stable,” mission chief commander Liu Feng told state television in a live broadcast from aboard the ship supporting the submersible.

“The level of our technical personnel is getting better and better.”

The Jiaolong — named after a dragon from Chinese mythology — carried three people into the Mariana Trench, the deepest place in the world.

Applause broke out as a depth gauge aboard the supporting ship Xiangyanghong registered more than 7,000 metres, state television showed.

The same submersible reached 5,188 metres in a Pacific dive in July last year. And in a series of three previous dives since June 15, the craft has gone deeper each time. Experts say 7,000 metres is the limit of its design.

Experts say China intends to use the submersible for scientific research, such as collecting samples of undersea life and studying geological structures, as well as future development of mineral resources.On its third dive on Friday, the crew collected samples of water and sediment and took photos of sea life, Xinhua said.

Scientists say the ocean floors contain rich deposits of potentially valuable minerals, but the extreme depths pose technical difficulties in harvesting them on a large scale.

And the stability and durability of the craft presents further problems for future operations.

The recent round of dives have seen some minor technical glitches, such as the breakdown of communications equipment and problems with the adjustable ballast system, state media has reported.

The 7,000 metre dive was previously scheduled for Monday, state media had reported. The reasons for the change of date were unclear but mean the record-setting comes the same day as China’s landmark space manoeuvre.

(c) 2012 AFP

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China sets new record submersible deepest seas dive

China sets new record submersible deepest seas dive


Chinese sub dives over 6,000 meters

ABOARD XIANGYANGHONG 09 – China‘s manned deep-sea submersible Jiaolong and three divers inside are rising from over 6,000 meters below the sea in the Mariana Trench after setting the country’s dive record on Friday.

China’s manned deep-sea submersible, Jiaolong, is unmoored from its mother ship before making its first dive in the Mariana Trench, as part of a bid to go to depths of up to 7,000 meters, June 15, 2012. [Photo/Xinhua]

The dive, which began at 9 am local time Friday (2300 GMT Thursday), is the first of a series of six scheduled ones.

The dive went smoothly and cost about 3 hours for the Jiaolong to reach the depth of 6,000 meters at 12 pm local time (0200GMT), which far surpassed the 5,188-meter record it made last July.

The three divers Ye Cong, Cui Weicheng and Yangbo inside the vessel wished China’s Shenzhou-9 spacecraft launch a success from 6,055 meters below the sea.

The Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft Thursday completed its final full-system drill before its planned launch in mid-June.

The Jiaolong threw ballast iron and began to rise at 12:44 pm local time (0244 GMT).

So far, the three drivers and the Jiaolong itself have been OK.

There was something wrong with the submersible’s No 1 communication system, but the No 2 set is working soundly to guarantee the connection between the vessel and Xiangyanghong 09, its mother ship.

The rise is expected to last three hours and the on-scene dive headquarter will timely release the diving information.

The Jiaolong, depending on local weather and sea conditions, will try another five dives, deeper and deeper, in the coming days. The fifth and sixth are scheduled to challenge the depth of 7,000 meters.

The six dives, each of which may last eight to 12 hours, will test various functions and performances of the manned submersible at great depths.

Experts say, for safety, sea dives can only be conducted in daylight under no-more-than-four-class wind and no-more-than-three-class wave.

The Xiangyanghong 09 ship reached the designated dive zone in Mariana Trench on Monday morning.

China’s manned deep-sea submersible, Jiaolong, is hung up before making its first dive in the Mariana Trench, as part of a bid to go to depths of up to 7,000 meters, June 15, 2012. [Photo/Xinhua]

Submersible sets new China dive record

The "Jiaolong" craft descended to a depth of 6,000 metres in the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean

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File photo of the Chinese submersible “Jiaolong”. The manned Chinese submersible on Friday set a new record for the country’s deepest ever sea dive at 6,000 metres (19,685 feet), state media said.

A manned Chinese submersible set a new record for the country’s deepest sea dive Friday, over 6,000 metres, showing Beijing’s technological ambitions as it also readies for its first manned space docking.

The “Jiaolong” craft dived over 19,685 feet into the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean, the first in a series of six dives which will plumb depths of 7,000 metres, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The deep-sea dive push comes as China prepares to launch a spacecraft on Saturday to conduct its first manned space docking, as part of efforts to establish a permanent space station by 2020.

The submersible, which carried three men, reached around 6,500 metres with only a technical glitch in communications, state media said.

“In our first battle, we have already reached 6,500 metres. All of our tasks have been completed,” chief commander Liu Feng told state television aboard the ship carrying the submersible.

He said a piece of communications equipment on the surface of the water failed, but the team switched to a back-up system and restored communications. He did not say whether contact was completely lost with the Jiaolong.

The same vessel — named after a dragon from Chinese mythology — reached 5,188 metres in a Pacific dive last July, the nation’s previous record.

Friday’s dive sparked outpourings of nationalism on the Internet and comparisons to the upcoming space launch.

“Three pilots will take the Jiaolong to attempt the 7,000-metre dive, while three astronauts will take the Shenzhou-9 to connect with the Heavenly Palace,” a Shanghai based blogger wrote on his microblog.

“Up in the sky we can pluck the moon, down in the oceans we can catch the turtles,” said the posting on Sina’s microblog service, quoting a saying attributed to late Chinese leader Mao Zedong.

Experts say China intends to use the submersible for scientific research, such as collecting samples of undersea life and studying geological structures, as well as future development of mineral resources.

But one Chinese expert on Friday described the latest dives as an “experiment” for China and said future use of submersibles for scientific research faced obstacles, such as with stability and durability of the craft.

“Even after it reaches the 7,000-metre depth, it still remains a question whether it can achieve scientific purposes,” Zhou Huaiyang, professor of the School of Ocean and Earth Sciences at Shanghai’s Tongji University, told AFP.

Scientists say the oceans’ floors contain rich deposits of potentially valuable minerals, but the extreme depths pose technical difficulties in harvesting them on a large scale.

– AFP  Newscribe : get free news in real time

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 China achieves double record-breaker: Sky-high and abyss-deep sea!

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