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Senator Brownback, thank you for the opportunity to come here and share some of our insights and experiences through the years. As a professional “rocket scientist”, I’ve worked 22 years at the Johnson Space Center, I’ve had the opportunity to learn real space operations and to judge other countries’ reports against the hard engineering. That’s been a good key to judge Russian reports back in the Soviet days when they had mysteries, and they had things they left out, things that were partial truths, even things that were distortions. And it’s been very useful in recent years to look at the Chinese program.

We’re very close, as we know now, to the Chinese beginning what they call phase 3 of their space program. Phase 1 was the first artificial satellite, phase 2 the flight of Yang Liwei last October, and phase 3 in their explicit terms is the beginning of lunar exploration. They have a probe, they call it the Chang’e. More specifically and recently, they call it the “Chang’e 1”, which I think has some significance, it not being the only probe in the series, but perhaps just the first. That will go into lunar orbit as early as December of 2006.

They have also shown with their human space flight last October that they are willing to spend a lot of money. The number given was more than $2 billion between the decision to go ahead with manned space flight and the very first flight. It’s not $2 billion per flight, but it’s a total $2 billion in investment. That’s a lot of money, and even at Chinese wage levels, it shows a major commitment to that type of program.

They’ve also been very forthright, much more so than the Soviets in the early days of the space race, about the technology of the program and about their intentions and about the people involved in it. And this vast amount of information which they are releasing is of great value to us to analyze what they’re doing, because we can see what they’re releasing far more than what they can control. We can see things in their pictures that show the identity of certain hardware, we can make deductions from comments they make that other things must be true because of space engineering. This helps us see a whole lot into their program and gives us a great deal of confidence that some of our guesses and some of our predictions are relatively close.

They have said, and it looks like they are serious about being motivated to do space for a series of reasons. They intend to use the space challenge to create a high-tech capability, to create high technology. Then they will validate those capabilities in the ultimate testing ground of actual space flight. And having validated them, to persuade the rest of the world that the technology is valid, that is, to enhance the credibility in the minds of Chinese and foreigners in their high technology across the board. It enhances their high technology commercially, it enhances their high technology weapons systems militarily. It provides multiple benefits, cash value to their country for having done space technology successfully, and as successfully as they’ve carried it out, especially with the Shenzhou manned program

In looking at some of the strengths of their program, in the interviews they’ve given and the comments they’ve made, I think one clear and very impressive achievement they have is their strategy of learning from the whole rest of the world, learning from the world all the activities in space in every other nation of the past history. Now, there’s a lot of issues that some of their spacecraft are copies. Some of them are superficially copies. Some systems, such as the space suit they wear inside the Shenzhou capsule are obviously Chinese manufactured versions of the suit the Russians provided them with.

Others look similar, have similar functions, but most have been developed and tested entirely with Chinese engineering. But the strategy to basically learn, to basically not to repeat anybody else’s mistakes in space (they made some of their own original mistakes, but only once or twice), but not to repeat things they’ve seen done wrong in other countries. I think is a very powerful tool to let them do things they intend to do in the future. In fact, they are so good at learning from other people’s experience, I wish we could learn from that strategy and I wish that in our own country and at NASA and other programs, they would pay more attention to the experience of other people as well as their own experience in the past. I think that’s a drawback in our program.

The second major power, the second major strength in the Chinese program is demographic. They have been staffing up their program in the past 10 years, and have, as we now believe, more than 200,000 people in their industry with an average age somewhere in the low 30s. This is a team of people that are going to work together, have already solved problems together, and will keep solving problems together for decades to come.

Those were the major strengths in the Soviet program. They staffed up their program in a big rush at the beginning of the Space Age, they established communications, they established teams, they worked together, and it was the perfect way to build a space program as long as you assume that the workers live forever. They are now in the Soviet Union facing at least half of the workers that are left in the program will be replaced, they have to be replaced in coming years, because they’re now, the average age in many Soviet space engineering areas is beyond the average life expectancy of the Russian male, and this is a serious challenge they have. The Chinese are just the opposite, the U.S. is somewhere in between.

There is a weakness that the Chinese have that may get in the way of some of their ambitions. They brag in their own policy papers that they use the most centralized control, top-down direction of all the research, all the solutions to their technology, and a very narrow focused approach towards some of these challenges. Now, in the real world of space engineering, as we know from our own experience, often the problems you run into, which are not forecast by the bosses, are solved by answers and technologies in the next office over, or the next division over, or some other entire organization. And it is very difficult, if not impossible, for enough problems to accurately be reported up the chain so that they can be solved at the top.

It’s possible, and the experience with Shenzhou suggests that the people doing the program were doing a lot of their own problem solving, and that the Chinese official pronouncement that it will be the director from the top that is responsible for their success is for show. It’s just a way of having the central regime gain the credit from the success of their program. Whatever they have done though, their program has been successful. It’s been successful in a lot of very good, prudent, slow, methodical, perhaps cautious or even overcautious small steps, building, taking a launch vehicle family, for example, expanding on those launch vehicles, lengthening the tanks, putting higher pressure engines, putting more strap-on, extra booster stages.

But they’ve now reached the point where they can no longer expand their launch capabilities by small increments. They have a big step in front of them now, and it’s a big step that will determine the future of their program. Can they go to a larger booster system? Tell call it the Long March 5 or the Chang Zheng 5 family, with an entirely new set of fuels, a larger diameter central stage that can’t be transported by rail to the launch site they now have, a vehicle that can go from their current maximum about 10 tons in lower-Earth orbit to 25 tons. The new vehicle would give them the opportunity to do heavy commercial communication satellites (which they put as their number one priority), the ability to put large payloads in interplanetary transfer to the moon and elsewhere to launch a near-class space station, which they’ve said is a goal in the mid term, and the capability to launch a Shenzhou-type vehicle with astronauts on lunar flights.

Now, between now and getting there, they have many steps they have to make, and we’re going to watch with great interest. Using the talents and skills they already have shown and perhaps their management problems that could be in the way, we’re going to watch them build this booster and we’re going to clearly have insight into the program. If in 5 or 6 years they’ve built a launch pad, test flown this Long March 5 (it’s called Long March 5-500) series of booster, if it’s flying before the end of this decade, it can do many things including opening the path for Chinese astronauts to the moon.

At the point they can make the decision or need to make the decision, they’ll look at our own schedule and probably go back to their reasons for doing space flight, which is to enhance the credibility of their own technology. A manned lunar program or manned lunar fly-by ahead of NASA, ahead of anyone else, would be the kind of thing that they clearly already are paying for in other programs and would like to buy again. Well, we may see them do that.

In terms of whether we can take part in cooperation with them, clearly they like cooperation. It’s one of the ways they obtain technology and know-how. Our own cooperative programs can teach us a lot, one of which is that, as with the International Space Station, the biggest international space cooperation project ever, we now realize that the promises that were made about bringing the Russians into the program, that it would make it cheaper, faster, safer, better, promises that NASA came here and told Congress about, were none of them fulfilled, and they’re not fulfilled for reasons that in some cases had been forewarned.

Parts of ISS that have worked best tend to be not the modules that are all built together with components from each different partner, but components side by side, the Russian module and the U.S. module with supplemental capabilities for atmospheric revitalization, for example, or most critically, for transportation. And the saving grace of the ISS design is that we have two independent access transportation methods to the station. When Soyuz and Progress were not adequate, the Shuttle took up the slack and we kept a record of how much the Russians owed us for that. Now with the Shuttle down, the Russians have taken up the slack and they’re doing the bookkeeping to see who owes what.

Perhaps with the Chinese access, a Shenzhou-type vehicle with humans beyond low-Earth orbit, we may see a time 10 years from now when more than one country are in the process of developing independent access to get people into lunar orbit and beyond. And we’re not considering it a bad thing at all or wasteful, far from it. ISS has shown us that often
stand-alone capabilities by two different teams of partners can often work in parallel and create something far more reliable and useful than either alone.

But for the most part, the Chinese have not expressed interest either in ISS or other seriously integrating their programs. They’re putting their space station and their spacecraft into an orbit that is incompatible with the International Space Station. They are building ground tracking sites for things like return to Earth that would not be in the right location for spacecraft coming back to Earth, to China, from the International Space Station. So their building these facilities is a clue that they are not looking for any near-term cooperation with ISS.

They have their own reasons. As I said before, and we’ll go into at your interest, the reasons are satisfied by them pushing on alone or taking part or being rivals of other groups, other countries, other partners. And it is a cash value to them that they are seen as among the top with space powers on Earth. They clearly show they want to do that and they can spend the money to get there and that they have the talent, they have the people in place now ready for any task the Government decides.

Thank you.


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