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  • Guest Blog: China's Space Program Threatens U.S. National Security

    On November 2nd, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) completed a critical milestone in its young, yet ambitious, space program. China’s unmanned Shenzhou 8, which launched on October 31, successfully completed an automated rendezvous and docking with their prototype space station module, Tiangong 1. This docking exercise is a critical development in China’s quest to launch and operate its own manned space station in Low-Earth Orbit. As China moves ahead with enhancing their space capabilities, the U.S. shuttle program has ended with no successor in place and an unclear future. We have no independent access to space for several years at the minimum as a result.

    The reality is that China will likely have a fully operational space lab, and perhaps even a space station, orbiting Earth by 2020.  Not ironically, that is the very same year the International Space Station (ISS) may be decommissioned. If that becomes a reality, China could host the only permanent human presence in space. This scenario poses a grave threat to American national security, not to mention to our stature as a world leader.

    According to Chinese state-run media, CNSA has three goals for its space program. Phase 1 was the launch of a manned space vehicle to execute various space experiments. This phase was accomplished by the Shenzhou 5 and 6 missions which, occurred in 2003 and 2005, respectively.  Phase 2 involves the launching of a Chinese space laboratory, as well as a docking mission between a manned space flight and the prototype for the Chinese space station.  China has already completed one of the milestones of Phase 2, which was CNSA’s first extra-vehicular activity, or spacewalk, in 2008.  Phase 3 involves the operation of China’s full-size space station, scheduled for 2020.

    While CNSA maintains that it is pursuing a vigorous space program for peaceful purposes, China’s space program is inherently a product of its military. Formed in the 1950s, China’s early space program was embedded in the Chinese military. Chinese space development efforts have long been linked with their development of missiles and nuclear weapons. The program rapidly expanded to include mid- and long-range ballistic missiles, as well as an atomic warhead. In the 1990′s China’s space program was officially detached from the People’s Liberation Army, although the CNSA continues to have strong ties to the military.

    China’s progress in space exploration is motivated by a number of factors, including the vital one of expanding military capabilities. China has demonstrated both a willingness and ability to deploy military resources into space. In 2007, its military successfully used a ground-based missile to hit and destroy one of its aging satellites in orbit.  Chinese hackers are also suspected of interfering with U.S. satellites four times in 2007 and 2008 in an effort to test their vulnerabilities.

    These incidents not only demonstrate China’s ability to target our satellites, but also their clear intent to use that ability.  It would be folly for the U.S. to underestimate the threat posed by the growing capabilities of the Chinese space program.

    Since the first Mercury flight, the U.S. human space flight program has been a source of pride and inspiration for our nation. NASA has been an important motivator in accelerating the technological and industrial capabilities that have ensured U.S. global dominance in space.  The new threats America faces from China are a powerful reminder of why we must invest in human space exploration with a clear mission and national support. China understands that space is the ultimate high ground. America must remember this and increase our efforts to stay ahead of our adversaries, real and potential.

    U.S. Representative Pete Olson (R – TX) represents Texas’ 22nd District in Congress.

    The views expressed by guest bloggers on the Foundry do not necessarily reflect the views of the Heritage Foundation.

    Posted in Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    6 Responses to Guest Blog: China's Space Program Threatens U.S. National Security

    1. Michael Brady says:

      I don't disagree that NASA deserves a clear mission and the funding to carry out wide ranging researchs and both robotic and human exploration of space, but to your primary point, if "China’s Space Program Threatens U.S. National Security" did the US space program threaten the national security of the PRC?

      • Mike says:

        Of course it did. That's the point of the "high ground" and the point of the article. The problem with the Obama administration is that they think every problem has a political solution, not understanding that some problems are clarified by the supposition of the use of force. The Chinese know this and fully intend to exploit it. We can only hope the American people will recognize the fundamental weakness of this president and replace him with a leader who sees and understands the danger of losing our advantage in space.

    2. D. Kaemmer says:

      Why does the author of this article not urge the president and more importantly the leading members of his party to increase spending for NASA (e.g. annually by 3 percent over inflation)? This would be the best way to ensure the dominating role of US space research and space flight!! But if it comes up to money for NASA the big bargaining starts… and the budget is cut and cut and cut further!!

    3. DH Woodward says:

      This is not a trivial milestone for China (and the United States) see "Unrestricted Warfare" by Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui

    4. Jim says:

      I can't tell: is Pete Olson suggesting this is grounds for a new Cold War or a pre-emptive strike on China?

    5. MCC says:

      "America must remember this and increase our efforts to stay ahead of our adversaries, real and potential."

      Not to mention imagined ones.

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