CNSA vs NASA: The new space race?

China, in matters both domestic and international, has always marched to the beat of its own drum. Part of this independence relates to the country’s tumultuous relationship with the numerous western powers – by whom it was once occupied. A second factor is that China’s governing party – namely the Chinese Communist Party – does not need to ask for the public’s opinion. The leaders of China can declare goals, regardless of public support or dissent, even during times of economic uncertainty. So, to many, it comes as no surprise that the Chinese are pursuing their own plans toward space exploration. There are a number of reasons for this – some economic and some military – but the largest reason is because the United States has given them little choice but to forge their own path.

China decided to build its own space station after it was not invited to join the other 16 countries that

A view of China's Tiangong 1 module just before it docks with the Shenzhou-8 spacecraft on a monitoring screen at the Beijing Aerospace Flight Control Center.

make up the International Space Station, launched in 1998. The US had a large role in this exclusion due to concerns over sharing information and technology with a rival country, which is interesting considering it had no issues working with Russia. Regardless, despite this and other obstacles, China became the third country to send a man into space in 2003. As part of their “Five Year Plan” the Chinese have announced their intent to put a person on the moon by 2020. Of course, the United States accomplished this decades earlier, but China’s landing would be the first in 40 years since the Apollo 17 in 1972.