Yet another media report from China has confirmed the basics of their latest group of astronauts. Five men and two women are being trained for Shenzhou missions. In keeping with China's typical policy of secrecy, we don't know their names or faces yet, but analysts are making educated guesses from previously disclosed lists of candidates.
All the astronauts are experienced pilots from China's Air Force. So far, China has not taken the step of diversifying its astronaut corps with scientists or medical doctors. It's possible that "mission specialist" astronauts will be recruited before China launches its large space station around 2020.
What is unclear is whether the PRC will pursue Tiangong 3, the half-Mir space station planned for ten years from now, or take the experience it gains from Tiangong 1--the 9 ton Skylab-like contraption which launches next year--and pursue a moonshot program. NASA has for sometime seen China as pursuing a high launch rate strategy of reaching the moon using existing platforms. Remains to be seen if this is a cost effective alternative to heavy-lift.
Forget is "Constellation too big to fail," try the friggin' Space Shuttle's too big to fail:
The U.S. Space Shuttle program may not come to an end this year, Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said in a statement, citing International Space Station (ISS) manager.
According to Michael Suffredini, the space shuttle Atlantis may be launched to the ISS in summer 2011.
"In this case, additional scientific equipment and components for system of water regeneration from condensate could be delivered to the U.S. segment of the station," the statement said. "However, funding for this flight has not been provided so far."
Coming on the heels of SFF's lecture on how "failure" should be met with a shot to the head, the Augustinophiles in the blogosphere should have gone into terminal apoplexy upon this latest announcement. What do we see? Nada.
More directionless masturbation from the Space Review:
When a new president finally makes time in his busy schedule to decide on a direction for his space agency, he lays out a vision in words calculated to seem Kennedy-esque in decades to come. President Reagan envisioned a mammoth space station functioning as an orbiting maintenance facility for satellites. The first President Bush said that we should go to Mars as soon as ever we could. President Clinton said that we should build a space station in a way that explored new reaches in cooperation among nations of the Earth. And George W. Bush said to put Apollo on steroids and shoot the Moon. Now it’s President Obama’s turn. With an industrial gray, metal staircase as a backdrop, he passed up the soaring rhetoric and sci-fi visions and instead charged NASA to build its future step by step through the industrial gray work of inventing and maturing technology.
No president in the post-Apollo era has offered this kind of vision.
Yes, because no President figured he could sound Kennedy-esque by channeling Master Po. While NASA's busy figuring out how "to be nothing while giving everything else to others," we'll still be wading around in low Earth orbit, servicing a space station that serves no unique purpose whatsoever, and keeping the dumbest launch vehicle ever devised flying for yet another year.