On October 12th, China successfully launched its second manned space mission --admitting it to the very small group of the world's space powers. Amy Katz takes a closer look at why the Chinese are in space and what they hope to gain.
NATURAL SOUND UP FULL -- LAUNCH
The successful launch of its second piloted space mission puts China into an exclusive club. Only Russia and the United States have done the same. It is good for China's image at home and in the international community -- according to John Pike -- the Director of GlobalSecurity.org -- a leading expert on defense, space and intelligence policy.
"The Chinese are in space for the same reasons that other countries are. Communications and weather satellites are useful to building your economy. Communications, navigation and reconnaissance satellites can be helpful to your military and a piloted space program is a good way of building national prestige."
The only comment from the U.S. government on the launch, came from the U.S. space agency, NASA. Its administrator, Michael Griffin, released a statement congratulating China on the successful launch saying, "China, once again, has demonstrated that it is among the elite number of countries capable of human space flight. We wish them well on their mission, and we look forward to the safe return of their astronauts."
China has been involved in space technology since the 1950s. It launched its first satellite 35 years ago and has been developing its space program's military capabilities since then. Beijing insists its space program is only for peaceful purposes, but some experts believe China's motives for being in space are mainly military. John Pike does not think so.
"China really doesn't have a need for military space systems, unlike the United States. Most of China's security concerns right now are on their doorstep, like Taiwan, whereas the United States, also concerned about Taiwan, needs spy satellites, because that theater is on the opposite side of the world."
Mr. Pike says much of China's space technology originally came from Russia and he says it is primarily with Moscow that Beijing shares some of the information it gets from its space program.
Amy Katz, VOA News.