space program china

China’s Space Program



access ultimately liberate
dock heart (2) ambitious
train (2) exclusive simulation
obtain footage on the go
suitable ordinary characteristics
orbit launch milestone
latch pioneer check off
ban cooperate presumably
analyst aviation tremendous
foe Congress skepticism
aim desire intellectual property


Video: China’s Space Program


We’re heading to the far northwest of Beijing to try to get access to a story we’ve been working on for more than a year because we’ve been dealing ultimately with the People’s Liberation Army.

Going inside Space City — where foreign journalists are almost always never let in.

It’s the heart of China’s most expensive and ambitious project yet: the manned space program.

We’re meeting three of China’s best-known astronauts.

It’s their first ever interview with a foreign reporter.

Journalist: “Is it very difficult to dock the two spacecraft together?”
Nie Haisheng, Astronaut: “It’s very difficult to dock the two spacecraft together. That is why we had to do the simulation, many, many times.”
Journalist: “And how many hours did you have to practice?”
Nie Haisheng: “We trained for the docking for two years.”
Journalist: “TWO years?!?”

CNN has obtained this exclusive footage of their rigorous training: thousands of hours of simulations hone technique — so it’s perfect in space.

Physical, psychological and team testing, always on the go.

Journalist: “And it seems like to have to be a certain height. You have to have a degree. You need to pass all these physical, psychological, team tests. Do you have to be super human to be an astronaut?”

Nie Heisheng: “Though the training process of astronauts is very difficult, we are just ordinary people . . . but certain characteristics make us more suitable to fly space missions.”

So this is a model, and in fact a simulator of what the Chinese astronauts do in space.

This over here is the space lab that went into orbit some years ago, the Tien Gon One. And over here is the spaceship that latches to it: the Shenzhou.

Now the Shenzhou was originally modeled on the Soyuz, the Russian or Soviet Union spacecraft.

China borrowed heavily from the Russians when it launched its space program in the early 90s. Since then, it’s steadily checked off the milestones: first man in space … First spacewalk … First multi-day mission.

But it comes decades after the Cold War race to space.

Nie: “The United States and Russia started their space programs early; they are the pioneers.”
Journalist: “Presumably, you wanted to be the best.”
Nie: “Of course. I hope our space program to be better and better.”

The Chinese space program cooperates with the European Union and others.

But the entire program is locked out of NASA, by US Congress.

And it’s banned from the International Space Station, where fifty nations operate.
Miles O’Brien, CNN Aviation Analyst: “Every time this gets mentioned at all, anywhere near Congress, it gets shut down immediately.

There is tremendous skepticism there with China: it’s viewed as a foe, it’s viewed as a government that seeks to take our intellectual property, our national secrets and treasure.”

Journalist: “Is it disappointing that you cannot directly cooperate with NASA or do joint exercises with the International Space Station?”

Nie: “As an astronaut, I have a very strong desire to fly space missions with astronauts from other countries.”

For now, the manned space program goes it alone.

China plans to put its own space station in orbit, within a decade.

But their ultimate aim is perhaps the moon . . .

Or even Mars.

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1. It is very rare and difficult for foreigners to enter China’s Space City. True or false? Why is it so difficult?

2. Is this an ordinary project, program or undertaking?

3. What do the astronauts say about themselves and the docking?

4. The Chinese Space Program has been modeled after NASA. Is this correct or wrong?

5. Was China competing with the Soviet Union and the US during the Cold War Space Race?

6. The Chinese Space Program cooperates and has join missions with NASA. Yes or no?

7. Describe China’s space aims and goals.
A. Everyone agrees that there should be more funding and support for space programs. There should be more funding and support for space programs. What do you think?

B. What should space programs aim for or try to accomplish?

C. I would like to be an astronaut. Yes or no? Would you like to be a space tourist?

D. Are science fiction movies and TV shows popular in your country?

E. What will happen in the future?

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