China's Space Operations Move Ahead; U.S. & Europe Going Backwards
November 14, 2011 • 9:36AM

China's manned space program announced today that a space operations committee has been established to manage the operations planning, technical evaluation, and flight control of the Tiangong-1 docking target currently in Earth orbit.

Early next year, China plans to send two manned docking missions to Tiangong-1. The creation of this committee indicates China's decision that, based on the success of the first docking test, this will be a multi-mission project, requiring its own dedicated operations team.

The committee will take charge of Tiangong-1, after the Shenzhou-8 spacecraft, which is now docked with it, returns to Earth, later this month. A second test docking between the Tiangong-1 and Shenzhou-8, it is reported, is now scheduled for November 14th. Although Shenzhou-8 will return to Earth by the end of this month, the Tiangong-1 module is designed to be able to remain in Earth orbit for up to two years.

Meanwhile, on the Atlantic side of the world, the rush is on to figure out what can be sacrificed in the U.S. and European space programs, to try to meet the fascist requirement to "balance" budgets.

NASA has already told the Congress that planetary and space science programs will definitely be proposed to be delayed, when the Obama Administration submits its NASA budget request for fiscal year 2013, in February. If scientists want to see the Webb Space Telescope launched, the OMB advises, decide what you are willing to cut, as a trade-off. NASA Associate Administrator for Space Science, Jim Green, has revealed that a review panel is examining every already ongoing NASA science mission, to evaluate the "science for the dollar" of each, to see if it is worth the money to continue to operate and collect and process the scientific data. On the table is everything, from the operating Cassini mission at Saturn, the operating Mars Exploration Rovers, to the Kepler extrasolar planet mission, and more.

The European Union, similarly, has submitted a draft budget, which abandons funding for Europe's Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GEMS) project. This complex multi-satellite system cannot be built by the European Space Agency without EU support.