WI: Chinese Men to Space...by the 1970's

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Emperor Norton I, Jul 6, 2010.

  1. Emperor Norton I Calbear's Love Child

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    During the 1960's, the Shuguang spacecraft was conceived by the Chinese as a way for the PRC to get into the Space Race (and I believe they thought this would allow them to get into the moon race too somehow). The design for the Shuguang rocket was very similar to the American Gemini spacecraft. Astronauts were selected, facilities constructed, and so forth. However, due to lack of funding and political will (and political problems), the program was canceled.

    But what if the program had gone ahead?

    http://www.astronautix.com/craft/shuuang1.htm
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuguang_spacecraft
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2010
  2. Workable Goblin Spacepony

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    I consider an earlier Chinese space program to be a very difficult thing to achieve (only slightly easier than the Sea Mammal of lore and fable...).

    First off, the Chinese human space program had a habit of coming in on the wrong side of political disputes--as your link notes, the Cultural Revolution severely disrupted this particular program, and several times the people involved were investigated for treason and such. I suppose that is probably because the leaders of the PRC at that time were not scientifically-trained and didn't care all that much about science per se.

    Second, Chinese industry was at the time rather technically backwards, like Soviet industry. It would have been difficult for them to reliably produce flyable rockets and capsules. Not impossible, by any means--after all, they did construct a credible ICBM deterrence force--but it does increase the number of barriers to successful operation, and especially the expense of such a program.

    Third, and probably most importantly, any Chinese program would necessarily be disproportionately expensive (due to its limited GDP until recently) and of limited benefit. Unlike the USSR or USA, China probably could not expect any major propaganda success from human spaceflight missions, and most practical needs, such as communications, earth observations, or spying, could and can be better met by robotic satellites.

    Especially due to the above mentioned limitations of their industry, the actual space path the Chinese followed was very reasonable, focusing mainly on developing satellites to perform practical functions, and only later developing a human portion. Now, once they decided to develop a human portion they could have (and should have, in my opinion) developed that faster than they actually have; for instance, their last flight was two years ago. They probably could be reaping propaganda benefits now, considering that the Russians have no money and NASA has no Shuttle (well, starting next year), but their inactivity has kept that from happening. I suppose nowadays they don't really care about propaganda anyways.

    If you want the PRC to develop space flight sooner, my suggestion would be to somehow preserve the alliance with Moscow longer, perhaps by removing Mao in the '50s and replacing him with someone less ideologically inclined. That would help remove the second and third barriers, and perhaps the Chinese human spaceflight program could start in the early '80s instead of the early '90s.
     
  3. Aranfan *yay*

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    Given the practical and political problems facing the PRC at the time, I'd say and easier way to fulfill the title would be to have an American of Chinese descent get into the US Space Program.

    Which would be difficult.
     
  4. Rediv Well-Known Member

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    Well, according to the articles you linked to, the program seemed to be going full steam ahead until the Lin Biao Incident. So if we remove that obstacle, then you'd likely see a manned space program, but probably much more costly, inefficient, etc. than if you went with an earlier POD as previously suggested.

    My suggestion for a POD would be after Zhou Enlai moves to protect the technicians from attacks during the Cultural Revolution. He could place the project under the supervision of a veteran PLA commander with rather weak ties to Lin Biao, so that the loyalty of the space program will not be questioned in 1971. In 1973-4, the emphasis on science and modernization will likely mean the manned space program gets special emphasis. Though this may be interrupted by the left-wing backlash in 1975-6, after the Gang of Four is purged and the "Four Modernizations" are embraced, manned space flight will probably be trumpeted as China seeks to proclaim just how forward-thinking and technologically-oriented it is.
     
  5. Thande Well Blade Runner got the ad screens right Donor

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    The OTL Chinese programme is essentially copying the Soviet one of the 1970s. With the Sino-Soviet split, there wouldn't be Soviet help flowing to an earlier Chinese space programme...

    If they did manage to get into space, it would be quite interesting, because it would be an example unprecedented in OTL of a third-world country doing it without Russian help. I suspect they would pull of things that make the Russian approach look opulent and wasteful by comparison...
     
  6. tallwingedgoat Well-Known Member

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    Maybe something along the lines of Spaceshipone. You said "to space", not to orbit.

    Of course there was no indication China of the 1970s was interested in anything other than an orbiting rocket mission. The head of the Chinese space program was Tsien Hsue-shen, the American trained rocket scientist. Interestingly his concepts were behind the Dyna-Soar program which eventually led to the space shuttle. So perhaps a Spaceshipone type mission was not impossible.
     
  7. Michel Van Well-Known Member

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    the China 1970s program Shuguang-1 (Dawn)
    the joke is that was stop because the Maoist think it was a Plan to kill Mao Zendong !
    because program was under support of Lin Biao, (he attempted overthrow Mao)
    (attempted murder plot hidden as manned space flight program, so paranoid were the Maoist... )
    so you want Shuguang-1 fly, Lin Biao putch against Mao Zendong has to be successful
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lin_Biao

    on 1970 China & Soviet industry technically backwards, yes they were behind US Hardware standart.
    but Soyuz still fly and Space shuttle goes retirement
    with technical problems China will deal like Sovjets: "no comment", "its never happend" or "that US propoganda lies"
     
  8. Chengar Qordath Princeps Qordathicus

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    China is second-world, not third.

    That said, I expect that a non-European-descended country managing manned space flight by the 1970's could result in the space race not dying out after the Apollo program; it could create a feeling that the great powers needed to hurry up and claim whatever was worth having in space, or else some other country would beat them to it.
     
  9. Emperor Norton I Calbear's Love Child

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    How open were the blueprints for the Gemini program to the public in the late 60's/early 70's? The reason I ask is, as the Chinese proposal was similar to Gemini, perhaps they could take from Gemini to reduce cost and technical research needs and so forth.
     
  10. Emperor Norton I Calbear's Love Child

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    Depending the the closeness of the Chinese can make the Shuguang a multipurpose vehicle like NASA pondered with the Gemini in order to stretch their dime, and (if these were open to the public at the time) could have copied these to save money on innovation. Among other things listed are the Big Gemini (would would maximize the crew) and modifications to allow Gemini to land on the moon.

    http://www.astronautix.com/craftfam/gemini.htm
     
  11. Jukra Well-Known Member

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    Chinese, like the Soviets, were planning for multipurpose vehicle.

    Chinese approach was similar to Soviet Zenit-Vostok, the manned spaceflight was secondary to development of photorecon satellites. The recon satellite counterpart for manned space program was FSW which was flown during 1970's. A manned Chinese spaceflight during same timeframe is technically feasible.

    http://www.astronautix.com/craft/fsw.htm
     
  12. Emperor Norton I Calbear's Love Child

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    But could they rip off NASA Gemini modification plans in that respect?
     
  13. simonbp Rancher of Widemos

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    The better question is just what they would use to launch it. The most powerful Chinese rocket at the time was the CZ-2, which could loft 2.2 tonnes. Gemini, on the other hand, weighed ~3.7 tonnes. CZ-2C could do barely 3.2 tonnes, and it wasn't ready to just launch recon sats until 1982.

    So, even without the post-Lin purge, it's going to take some leaps of Chinese rocketry to get men in to space before 1980...
     
  14. zeezack Well-Known Member

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    Curious, what factors would have had to take place to have made this a reality?
     
  15. Michel Van Well-Known Member

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    Tsien’s manned spaceplane design (was like X-20), proposed in the late 1970’s
    had to be launched by a CZ-2 core booster with two large strap-on boosters. (like

    why not same on CZ-2C for Shuguang ?
    the CZ-2F use four small booster to launch Shenzhou spacecraft

    Shuguang as Gemini analog
    It had potential to become versatile spacecraft for China
    first as Gemini stile mission
    then als Manned Orbiting Laboratory aka KH-10 manned spysat
    or Ferry for spacestation.