by Meghan Rouillard
While Europe and the U.S. are consumed with fears this weekend of the outcome of the Greek elections and the collapse of the Euro, a glimpse of what man's future could be is exemplified by several developments in Asia this weekend.
China announced yesterday at a press conference with the Shenzhou-9 crew that lift-off for their nearly two-week mission was scheduled for 6:37 PM Saturday local time, or 6:37 AM EDT. Today, the Shenzhou 9 capsule lifted off as scheduled from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on the edge of the Gobi Desert. All systems functioned normally and the launch was declared a success by space program chief Chang Wanquan. The crew will dock with the Tiangong-1 space module, which has been in orbit since September, and will spend 10 days working in the small module. As expected, joining the two men is rookie astronaut Liu Yang, China's first female space flyer. Air Force Major Liu enlisted in the People's Liberation Army in 1997, and was chosen as an astronaut in the second batch of recruits in May 2010.
One of the two male astronauts will remain in the Shenzhou-9 capsule during the mission, in case of emergency, and Liu and the third crew member will spend a planned 10 days carrying out experiments in Tiangong-1. The proto-type station module successfully docked twice automatically with the unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft last November. During this up-coming mission, the docking will be done manually by the crew, with the automatic docking capability available as a back-up. Demonstrating the manual docking of spacecraft in orbit is a necessary prerequisite to enable the construction of large space stations, and, later, multi-craft missions to the Moon and beyond.
Although this is only the fourth Chinese manned orbital mission since 2003, each has been carefully crafted to increase the capabilities of the crew members and the equipment. Next year, Shenzhou-10 will dock with Tiangong-1, perhaps for a longer stay in orbit, and China is readying a more capable and enhanced Tiangong-2 prototype station module, with the plan for a larger station complex to be completed by 2020.
And today in Japan the resumption of nuclear power operations at two reactors was approved, the first to come back on line after they were all shut down following the "Fukushima crisis." Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda had announced the government's decision at a meeting with key ministers, giving the go-ahead to two reactors operated by Kansai Electric Power Co at Ohi in western Japan, and this decision could open the door to more restarts among Japan's 50 nuclear power reactors. Massive pressure was put on Japan after last year's powerful earthquake to halt nuclear operations, an insane and diversionary response to what should have been cause to increase focus on the science of earthquake forecasting.
While these impulses do not represent the predominant global policy trend, they point us in the direction of where man should be headed, once we leave behind us the bankrupt imperial system, its associated structures, and most importantly the mentality which it represents. Man must rather embrace his identity as a "creature of Prometheus" and utilize the "power of fire," as these developments in Asia can remind us.
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