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在线翻译:
szdaily -> Opinion -> 
Space journey not far away
    2016-11-14  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

    Winton Dong

    dht620@sina.com

    IN August this year, Chinese science-fiction writer Hao Jingfang won the 2016 Hugo Award for her novelette “Folding Beijing,” in which she depicts the Chinese capital as a gigantic city divided into three areas. But only one of them stays above the ground at any point, while the other two fold up and go underground.

    The story has haunted my mind for quite a long time and made me quite sad. Is it really the doom for human beings? However, now I am happy to see that instead of being folded up to go underground, common Chinese people are expected to enjoy high-atmosphere journeys and travel to outer space in the near future.

    Such inspiring news was released early this month by ChinaRocket Co. Ltd. at the 11th China International Aviation and Aerospace exhibition, commonly known as the Zhuhai Air Show (held in Zhuhai City, Guangdong Province between Nov. 1 and 6). ChinaRocket is a company founded just in October this year by China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, the country’s largest developer of ballistic missiles and carrier rockets.

    According to Han Qingping, president of ChinaRocket, his company has set a three-phase blueprint for further development. The company will first develop a 10-metric-ton reusable spacecraft as early as 2020 and will use it to send three to five travelers to a height of 80 km from our mother planet to experience weightlessness there. That is the upper part of mesosphere, higher than where jets fly, but below the height of satellite orbits.

    Secondly, a 100-metric-ton reusable spacecraft will be developed by 2025 to send about 20 travelers to the thermosphere about 140 km above the earth, which is high enough to be called space.

    “Moreover, we will use these spacecrafts to perform intercontinental flights and long commercial space flights around 2030,” Han said.

    

    As we all know, space programs in China have been solely sponsored by the government and military departments during previous years. And a wonderful combination of military and commercial uses will surely open a new door for the development of China’s space industry. According to statistics, the market value of commercial space activities in China will reach 30 billion yuan (US$4.6 billion) by 2020.

    From my point of view, the commercialization of the space industry in China has at least five advantages.

    Firstly, it will help common Chinese people get to know, enjoy and share the results of the country’s scientific and technological developments. Don’t you think it is really fantastic for someone to be able to celebrate a birthday party or wedding ceremony in outer space in a totally weightless state with loved ones?

    Secondly, the commercialization will help China’s space industry run within the framework of a modern corporate system, go in line with international practice and compete in the global market, thus lowering its reliance on governmental sponsorship.

    Thirdly, as independent legal persons, these companies are free to attract social capital and foreign investment and make money. Their profit can also invigorate China’s space industry to lure more talented youth to join the research ranks. If such a benign circle is formed, the country’s space industry will maintain sustainable growth.

    Fourthly, the development of space programs will surely push forward relevant industrial chains in China such as rocket technology, satellite production, remote sensing, propelling technology, space-themed parks and other forms of tourism.

    Last but not least, from a more strategic perspective, the quick and healthy development of relatively smaller rockets will lay a solid foundation for China’s research on super-heavy rockets (more than 3,000 tons), which will enable the country to land astronauts on the moon and to send and retrieve Mars probes in the future.

    Despite the promising future of the space industry in China, one thing should be made clear beforehand. During the past 30-odd years, our rapid economic growth is at the cost of environmental deterioration. The lesson is so serious that we are now taking great pains to protect the environment. History cannot be repeated. While exploring outer space, we must try our best to develop new types of fuel, better use pollution-free propellants and environmentally friendly materials, so as to make it as clean as possible.

    (The author is the editor-in-chief of the Shenzhen Daily and guest professor of Shenzhen University with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)

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