The Peoples Republic of China was ushered into power in 1950 when the communists under Mao Tse Tung heralded a communist regime, by throwing away the American Puppet Chiang Kai Shek who fled to Formosa.
The fledgling nation was involved in a war straight away in Korea (1950-53). This was a defining moment in Chinese history as the USA threatened China with use of nuclear weapons and perforce the Chinese agreed for a cease-fire with the 38th parallel as the border. But this underlined the fact that China was handicapped and at the people’s party congress in 1955, Chairman Mao informed the delegates that China would have an independent nuclear deterrent as well as a space program
The launch of Sputnik I by the Soviets in 1957 and the subsequent manned space flight by Yuri Gagarin convinced Mao that space was the next post in the world and China cannot be a bystander there.
Mao expired in 1976, but the decision of the 1955 session bore fruit , when the Chinese launched their first space man into orbit in a manned mission in 2003. The spaceman YangLiwei encircled the earth in the space craft named Shenzhou 5.
This achievement was not without significance as China after the USA and Russia became just the third country in the world to launch a human into space independently. This launch of the astronaut into space was a result of sustained developments in the field of rocketry since 1960. This was the year the Soviets withdrew all their advisors , leaving the Chinese high and dry. However the Chinese did reverse engineering on the Soviet rockets left behind and this resulted in the Chinese launching their first satellite into orbit in 1970 named Dongfanghong-1 which translates to the words East is red. China at that time became the 5th country in the world to launch a satellite into space independently. The rockets the Chinese used were soviet era rockets which the Chinese after reverse engineering developed on their own.
The Chinese launched their manned space program in 1992, referred to as project 921. This bore fruit when the Chinese space man circled the globe in a shenzhou 5 spaceship on 15 October 2003. The Chinese launched further manned space flights in Shenzhou 6 and &7 in 2005 and again in 2008. Thus the Chinese have been averaging a manned space flight every 2-2and a half years. The Shenzhou 7 manned space flight on 25 September 2008 resulted in the first space walk by a Chinese astronaut or as the Chinese call Taikonauts.
The Chinese have ambitious plans for space exploration and the first Chinese Moon robotic spacecraft Change I was launched in 2007, which circled the moon and photographed the dark side as well.
Further the Chinese are planning Shengzhou 9 and 10 spaceships . These are slated for launch in 2012 and will involve intricate maneuvers like rendezvous docking.
More alarming is China’s plans to develop a space station. Intensive research is on in this field and the Chinese propose to have a full-fledged operational space station by 2020. This proposal was unveiled by the Chinese on 26 April 2011.
The Chinese space station will be much smaller than the Russian space station (international space station) and will handle 3 astronauts and weigh 60 tones compared to the present space station which weighs 419 tones. The Russian space station Mir weighed 196 tones. It was de commissioned in 2001.
The Chinese only launched their first manned flight in 2003 and to be able to launch a space station by 2020 will be a significant achievement. They have also planned new manned space flights as well. As per the Chinese blue print which they have unveiled, they plan to put a colony on the moon by 2025 and have a long-term plan for a manned space flight to Mars by 2040.
China is certainly forging ahead and this is as a result of dedication and an inherent genius. After all the first rocket and gun powder are Chinese inventions.