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» 10/25/2007
CHINA
Beijing happy about lunar probe, pledges peaceful development of space
Strong enthusiasm among ordinary Chinese as technicians and politicians dismiss talk about lunar space race. For them the lunar mission has only scientific purposes. Some note however that more probing should be done on Chinese soil where there is too much poverty.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The blastoff at 6.05 pm (Beijing time) from the Xichang satellite launch centre in Sichuan province went off without a hitch, televised live nationwide and around the world. The moon orbiter, which cost 1.4 billion yuan, separated from the rocket 24 minutes after launch and entered into a 16-hour orbit.

The event was covered by Chinese media wall-to-wall, proudly showing technicians, officials, people on street, national flags and celebration banners raised, spectators flashing the "V" sign for victory, almost as if it were the dawning of a new age.

Planetariums saw many people come to see the probe close-up, discussing the chances of life on the Moon or wondering whether the spacecraft will plant the Chinese flag on the earth’s only natural satellite.

For technicians and officials this is a “crucial step” in China’s space programme, one that is only scientific in nature.

“China will not be involved in a moon race with any other country,” said Mr Luan Enjie, chief commander of the lunar orbiter project.

However, that is not how the United States, Japan, India and even Brazil are seeing things. Each of them has renewed its interest in the moon and is drawing up plans for lunar missions.

Scientists are especially interested in the moon because research might unravel several mysteries about the universe. Also the satellite is rich in helium-3, an isotope that is a non-radioactive source of fusion energy rarely found on Earth.

“In many countries, they needed decades of planning and preparation,” Chen Yongqi, head of the Department of Land Surveying and Geo-Informatics at the Polytechnic University, told the South China Morning Post. “But in China, the process is so fast.”

“Doesn't it look like a dragon?” said Zhu Yousheng, a Chengdu businessman who paid 800 yuan for a ticket to see the event.

Some, with a touch of cynicism, said that at least at one level the blastoff has certainly yielded up some interesting consumer goods. 

Demand for the spacecraft crystal and metal-alloy model—scales 1:50—was so high that it was at first priced at 1,880 yuan and is now sold at 880 yuan each

But not every one is so keen on the aerospace project. Liu Chuanmei, a software engineer in Beijing, said that in her opinion “the state pours so much money into the space project just to show its power.”

For his part, Wu Mingfa, a farmer Chuanxing County (Xichang) near the launch site, is more interested in the injustice perpetrated by local officials.

“If we have the ability to send a satellite to the moon,” he asks, “why is it so difficult to send all corrupt officials to prison?”

Across the Taiwan Strait the authorities were silent on the orbiter's launch but the island's military experts are concerned by the “leap forward” in the mainland’s space programme.

Alexander Wang Chieh-cheng, professor of strategic studies and director of the Graduate Institute of American Studies of Tamkang University, said there was no need for Beijing to use the high-orbit rocket to deal with the island since it had plenty of low-end weapons, such as close to 1,000 missiles pointed at the island nation.

For Sun Jiwen, a rocket expert and a senior People's Liberation Army space security adviser, lunar exploration projects involve the whole of humanity and multinational co-operation on lunar research was inevitable.

By contrast, Teng Jianqun, director of the Research Department of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, believes that “space will become weaponised as more and more nations can afford it. Negotiation on rules in space must start now or it will be too late.” (PB)


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See also
10/05/2007 JAPAN
Japanese probe in orbit around the moon
10/24/2007 CHINA
Lift off for Chinese lunar probe
10/21/2008 INDIA
India’s first lunar probe to take off, seeking water on the moon
09/25/2008 CHINA
China’s first spacewalk tomorrow
06/11/2009 JAPAN
Japan’s lunar mission a success: the probe touches down today

Editor's choices
VATICAN
Pope remembers and prays for "latest tragedy" of migrants, "our brothers and sisters" who "are seeking happiness"At the Regina Caeli, Pope Francis says he is praying for the hundreds of victims in a sinking off the coast of Libya. An appeal to the international community to "act decisively and promptly." "Every baptized person is called to witness in word and deed, that Jesus is risen, He is alive and present in our midst." The Christian message "is not a theory, an ideology or a complex system of precepts and prohibitions, or moralism, but a message of salvation, a concrete event, even a person: the Risen Christ, the living and only Savior of all" . The Pope will be in Turin on June 21 to honor the Shroud, the exposition of which begins today.
SAUDI ARABIA – YEMEN
Saudi war in Yemen masks widening domestic tensions
by Afshin ShahiSaudi Arabia is using the conflict in Yemen to control domestic problems, especially social inequalities and religious sectarianism. However, whilst the royal family flaunts its wealth, some 20 per cent of the population lives in poverty. Many disgruntled young Saudis end up becoming "foreign fighters" for the Islamic state (IS). Some 15 per cent of the Saudi population is Shia, under the heavy thumb of the Sunni-dominated state. Afshin Shahi, director of the Centre for the Study of Political Islam and lecturer in International Relations and Middle East Politics at University of Bradford, provides the following lucid analysis.
VATICAN
Pope: on the persecution of Christians, the international community should "not stand by mute and inactive” and “look away”For the sixth time in a week, Pope Francis mentioned the martyrdom of Christians in today’s Regina Caeli (the Marian prayer at Easter), slamming the indifference of the international community towards this "alarming failure to protect basic human rights.” Today’s martyrs "are many, and we can say that they are more numerous than in the first centuries." In addition, “Faith in the resurrection of Jesus and the hope He has brought to us is the most beautiful gift that a Christian can and must offer his brothers and sisters. To one and all, therefore, do not tire of repeating: Christ is Risen!”

Dossier

by Giulio Aleni / (a cura di) Gianni Criveller
pp. 176
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