2007年10月24日 星期三

What's behind Asia's moon race?*

讓我興起此 Asia 之bllog

Launch: Spectators watch a Long March 3A rocket, carrying the Chang'e 1 lunar orbiter, blasting off in the Sichuan province on Wednesday. This is the first step in China's three-stage moon mission.
Launch: Spectators watch a Long March 3A rocket, carrying the Chang'e 1 lunar orbiter, blasting off in the Sichuan province on Wednesday. This is the first step in China's three-stage moon mission.
China Daily/Reuters
  • Launch: Spectators watch a Long March 3A rocket, carrying the Chang'e 1 lunar orbiter, blasting off in the Sichuan province on Wednesday. This is the first step in China's three-stage moon mission.
  • Beijing: Chinese watch live coverage of the launch of the country's first lunar orbit on a large screen outside a shopping center on Wednesday.
  • Launch: In this photo released by China's official Xinhua news agency, Chang'e 1, China's first moon orbiter, lifts off from the Sichuan province on Wednesday.

What's behind Asia's moon race?

China launched its first lunar probe Wednesday. Japan sent an orbiter up last month. India is close behind. It's an economic competition with military undertones.

As the rocket carrying China's first lunar probe blasted off Wednesday evening, it left in its wake a vapor trail of questions about the nature of Asia's new space race.

The continent's giants are jockeying for position beyond the earth's atmosphere. Japan launched its own moon orbiter last month. India plans to send a similar satellite up next year. The dawn of the Asian space age, however, has been darkened by suspicion, instead of cooperation.

"This means more competition because of the lingering security concerns all three countries have about one another," says Bates Gill, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. "Because of the military relevance of space missions and technology, real cooperation will be difficult."

The moon shots, all designed to learn more about the lunar atmosphere and surface, have no military purpose, officials in the three new space powers are quick to point out. But in a field where civilian technological advances can easily be put to military use, nations closely scrutinize each of their neighbors' steps forward.

India is nervous about China's intentions, especialy in the wake of Beijing's test of an antisatellite missile last January. China worries that Japan's missile defense cooperation with the US might threaten its interests, and resents Washington's determination to remain the world's dominant space power. Japan is rattled by North Korea's ballistic-missile capability.

Against that background, Dr. Gill adds, "an Asian NASA sounds a bit far-fetched."

That, argues Joan Johnson-Freese, a space expert at the US Naval War College in Newport, R.I., is because the Asian nations' space programs are largely driven by "technonationalism; they generate pride domestically and they demonstrate prowess internationally."

The chief scientist for China's moon program, Ouyang Ziyuan, said in an interview earlier this year with the official People's Daily: "Lunar exploration is a reflection of a country's comprehensive national power and is significant for raising our international prestige and increasing our people's cohesion."

Space programs also boost high-tech skills. "China needs its lunar and manned flight projects to nurture the aerospace industry and bring along a cadre of young engineers who will develop its space industry, GPS, Earth observation, and communications, along with military applications," says Gregory Kulacki, a China analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington.

"The main meaning [of the Chinese moon program] on the industrial side is that we have to set up many new abilities in satellitemaking, long-range telemetry, and so on," says Zhang Wei, a senior official with the Chinese National Space Administration.

Such challenges are important, too, in India, where the scientific community is seeking new frontiers now that New Delhi's nuclear program is mature. "The only other avenue for growth and development of scientific technology is space technology," says Swapna Kona, an analyst at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies in New Delhi.

In Japan, space exploration holds out the promise of autonomy. "Japan needs to secure its own means of launching a satellite," says Akinori Hashimoto, a spokesman for Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. "Now, we cannot launch one whenever we want to and we are concerned about information leakage."

China, Japan, and India are all focusing on the moon, says Dr. Kulacki, because it is "close, doable" and a logical first step in interplanetary exploration. Some officials see practical rewards beyond the scientific knowledge to be gleaned by mapping and analyzing the lunar surface. The moon is thought to be rich in Helium-3, for example, which could one day be used for nuclear fusion to create energy.

India's Chandrayaan probe will search for Helium-3, the head of India's space research organization said last year. China's Chang'e I orbiter will also sniff for it. "Mineral resources and energy ... will be a very important field that humans will compete for," Mr. Ouyang told the People's Daily.

The 1979 UN Moon Agreement bans ownership of lunar resources, but none of the nations launching lunar satellites, including the US, have ratified it, although India has signed it.

India has also been one of the most vociferous opponents of allowing weapons in space. Officials reacted with disquiet to China's destruction of an old weather satellite last January, proving that Beijing could threaten US and other satellites in space warfare. "We are treading a thin line between current defense-related uses of space and its actual weaponization," warned Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee soon after the Chinese missile test. He called on all states to "redouble efforts" toward a treaty guaranteeing the peaceful use of space.

China, too, has long called for such a treaty, which Washington rejects, but some analysts now doubt Beijing's sincerity. "Having recognized the futility of trying to get the US on board, and recognizing how weapons in space could be of benefit to China, that has dulled their enthusiasm," suggests Gill.

Japan, meanwhile, is shifting its approach to space-based defenses in the face of threats from North Korea. A ballistic-missile test in 1998 over its territory jolted Japan's space program into new life. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is seeking to redefine the current "peaceful" use of space to mean "non-aggressive" rather than "nonmilitary," as is currently the case.

The "Basic Space" bill enshrining this change is expected to pass by next March, freeing the Japanese Defense Ministry to launch spy satellites.

• Mark Sappenfield in New Delhi and Takehiko Kambayashi in Tokyo contributed to this article.

中国的探月计划开始付诸实施。继载人宇宙航行以及成功报废太空过弃卫星之后,周三发射的“嫦娥一号”探月卫星再一次吸引公众视线。德国之声中文网采访了柏 林自由大学天体学的瑙伊库姆教授(Gerhard Neukum),他对中国的赶超速度表示惊讶,并解释了探索月球有什么新意义。


瑙伊库姆:仅从外部观察还不能做出准确的判断,仅仅依靠听到的、看到的报道,很多都是关于中国取得的成就。就我个人来说,我对中国赶超的速度感到惊 讶,显然,那是一种奋力赶超行动。至少在某些领域,中国已具备了竞争能力。我认为,中国在航天领域的潜力很大,至少在今后数年内,中国会在该领域做出贡 献,它将不局限于非载人航天研究,也包括载人航天研究。


瑙伊库姆:月球始终对人类有着不可抗拒的吸引力。不过,在西方,阿波罗登月计划完成后,事情也就告一段落。那时的太空项目都有其政治目的,大型与月 球有关的科研项目不再进行,那时是冷战时代。就阿波罗本身而言,它是一次成功的科学创举。阿波罗之后,人类又开始对其他星球进行探索。这时科学家可以将月 球作为参照研究其他星球,同时也发现,原来对月球的了解也并不充分。还有,月球同地球是一套双星系统,他们最初的创世阶段有着十分相似的经历。因此,研究 月球能够帮助人们进一步理解地球的形成。




瑙伊库姆:德国的航天器不去登陆,而是围绕月球旋转,就象中国现在就要开始的项目。当然,德国的航天器携带了很多高科技试验器械,比中国的技术先进 得多。我从一开始就支持德国的探月计划,该计划也得到德国最高层的关注,最终的决定还没有做出。德国应该进行这样的航天计划,不仅着眼于科学研究,同时它 本身具有很强的纲领性和政治性。全球性的探月计划实际上已经开始,很自然,只有参与其中,在尖端搞科研并做出成就,今后才能从中享受到好处。


瑙伊库姆:你提到的这些国家都在走着同德国相似的道路,即国家“单干”。这同欧洲航天局本身固有的项目框架有很大关系。改变这一框架的内容必须经过 最上层反复多次论证,消耗很多时间。这对实施一个项目不利。还有一条很重要,即作为欧洲航天局的成员国,必须参与它的政策决策过程,但是否有话语权,也取 决于是否已经做出了某些贡献。




柏林自由大学天体学的瑙伊库姆教授(Gerhard Neukum)Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: 柏林自由大学天体学的瑙伊库姆教授(Gerhard Neukum)采访人物:瑙伊库姆教授就职于德国柏林自由大学,此前在德国航空航天中心担任科研主任。他领导的科研小组曾设计了德国火星探测仪上的摄像机。该小组也参与了德国探月计划并为月球探测仪设计最关键的器械之一摄像机的研制。