Friday, October 21, 2016

China space economy developing rapidly, the most accurate atomic clock in the world

Snail-like progress By Cai Meng

New company set up to develop space economy

The commercialization of rocket launches will boost the industry by bringing space tourism income and attracting private investment, experts said.

ChinaRocket Co. Ltd, a subsidiary of China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, the country's largest developer of ballistic missiles and carrier rockets, was established on Wednesday, marking the commercialization of China's space industry, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

"Chinese commercial space enterprises are lagging behind the global market due to lack of complete production chain in the commercial space industry and experience in commercial space activities like space tourism," Li Hong, president of the academy, said at a press conference on Wednesday.

"Commercializing rocket launches will help develop the industry as many private companies will be interested in the sector," Jiao Weixin, a professor at the School of Earth and Space Science of Peking University, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Jiao said the establishment of the company signals that State-controlled space industry is stepping into ordinary people's daily life.

Han Qingping, president of ChinaRocket, said at the press conference that the company would focus on keeping the cost 30 percent lower than an average launch through the "standardization of the interface between satellite and rocket as well as advance preparation."

According to Han, China will develop reusable sub-orbital vehicles in five to 10 years.

Han said the company will launch individual space travel services like "space taxi, free space ride and space shuttle bus" to promote the space economy.

According to Xinhua, ChinaRocket's individual space travel package would cost about $200,000.

Huang Jun, a professor at the School of Aeronautic Science and Engineering at Beihang University, said that "many countries have been studying the reusability of carrier devices and aircraft, but it will take at least one to two decades before visitors can afford a space trip."

The market value of commercial space in China would reach 30 billion yuan ($4.6 billion) annually by 2020, Xinhua reported, citing Hu Shengyun, a senior rocket engineer at China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp.

By Leng Shumei Global Times

China's atomic clock: The most accurate clock in the world

China's atomic clock: The most accurate clock in the world

China's cold atomic clock is the most precise time-keeping device ever built. The clock only weighs a couple kilograms and could fit comfortably in the boot of a car. And because it is powered by atoms, it won't have to be reset for another 30 million years.

China's cold atomic clock is the most precise time-keeping device ever built. The clock only weighs a couple kilograms and could fit comfortably in the boot of a car. And because it is powered by atoms, it won't have to be reset for another 30 million years.

Cold atomic clocks are the most accurate clocks in the world. Low-frequency lasers lower their internal temperatures to 273 degrees centigrade below zero, and slow down the movement of atoms inside. Slow-moving atoms decrease the likelihood of counting errors, and result in a more accurate counting of time.

"The frequency of the atom will not change. It is the same wherever it is. Unlike in mechanical clocks and electric clocks, atomic clocks aren't drastically affected by their surrounding environment. We are going to operate the most accurate cold atomic clock in space. It is the first time ever, not only for our country, but also for the world," Liu Liang, chief designer of Shanghai Institute of Optics and Fine Mechanics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, said.

Rubidium atoms count time inside China's cold atomic clock. Atoms are usually affected by gravity, but the low level of gravity in space will weaken the earth's gravitational pull and increase the accuracy of China's cold atomic clock.

"Atoms usually fall because of gravity, making it difficult to keep track of time for a long time. But up in space, we don't have that problem," Liu said.

The launch of Tiangong-2 marks China's transition from a follower in space research, to a pioneer. China's cold atomic clock project is a good example of that transition.

"The initial plan was brought up in 2006. We have made great efforts over the past ten years. We have been through a lot... and we have been successful" Liu said.

It took years of scientific work to get China's cold atomic clock into space. Researchers are now devising ways how to use the clock to benefit people down on earth.

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Chinese astronauts enter their space station following docking

Rendez-vous By Wang Xiaoying

Shenzhou-11 docks with Tiangong-2 space lab

More than 40 hours after lift-off, the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft has docked with the Tiangong-2 space lab. Astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong have moved into what will be their home in space for the next month.

Shenzhou-11 spacecraft docks with Tiangong-2 space lab

The Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft successfully completed its automated docking with the orbiting Tiangong-2 space lab at 3:31 am Wednesday Beijing Time, according to Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC).

Shenzhou-11, which was launched Monday morning from northwest China's Gobi Desert, began to approach Tiangong-2 automatically at 1:11 am Wednesday and made contact with the space lab at 3:24 am.

The rendezvous took place in the orbit about 393 kilometers above Earth.

The two astronauts aboard Shenzhou-11, Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong, monitored and reported on the docking operation, relaying their findings to the control center.

According to the mission schedule, once they enter the space module, the astronauts will stay there for 30 days.

Shenzhou-11, China's sixth manned spacecraft, will undertake the longest-ever space mission in the country. The two astronauts will spend a total of 33 days in space.

Sun Jun, deputy chief engineer of BACC, told Xinhua that the precision needed for the orbit prediction and automated docking calculation was much higher than previous docking missions.

China is the third country, after the United States and Russia, to complete successfully space rendezvous and docking procedures.

Tiangong-2 was sent into space on Sept. 15. It is hailed as China's first space lab "in the strict sense" and a key step in building a permanent space station, which the country aims to accomplish by 2020.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Philippine President Duterte in China for "Historic" Visit ; US Media Churlish!

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte arrives in Beijing on October 18, 2016, beginning his state visit to China. [Photo:]

US media churlish on Duterte’s China visit

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's ongoing trip to China has been seen as a gamble by the American media. Their astonished reaction clearly shows the selfish considerations of the US and its Western allies on the South China Sea issue. They take Philippine willingness to be a loyal part of the US alliance system as granted.

While providing security to the Philippines, Washington treats Manila as a pawn. The alliance requires the Philippines to serve US interests. To Washington, the Philippines' value lies in providing military bases and legitimacy for the US containment of China in the South China Sea. As to the price Manila has to pay, it isn't a problem at all for Washington.

We don't foresee that the Philippines under the Duterte administration will break with the US. The majority of Chinese scholars on international strategy don't think it will ever happen. Duterte appears more to be striving for increased diplomatic autonomy. Instead of serving Washington's rebalance to the Asia-Pacific strategy, he is redesigning Philippine foreign policy based on Philippine interests.

Manila has shifted its China policy from one of confrontation during the Aquino era to being friendly and cooperative, as China's support is essential for its economic development. Washington needs Manila to stick to its geopolitical role, but 100 million Filipinos want a better life more.

The Philippines needs support to improve infrastructure, for which the US offers no help. Washington only sends soldiers and military equipment, but the security threat it paints is exaggerating to Filipinos.

Duterte's China visit burst the "China threat" bubble jointly blown by Aquino and the US. Arbitration and US aircraft carriers are useless in solving maritime disputes between Beijing and Manila. Friendly engagement and negotiations are more beneficial to the Philippines. Aquino was more like a gambler, betting that confronting China would win public support and that all ASEAN countries would follow the US. He lost the bet.

Development and cooperation are the major theme in Southeast Asia, but the US is pushing the region to the opposite pole for its selfish strategic gains. It is a costly strategy. Washington ties Manila and Hanoi to its chariot for its China-containment strategy in the South China Sea, but the latter could have more room to cooperate with China.

A BBC opinion piece expects Duterte to focus on the maritime disputes and re-evaluate the importance of the alliance with the US some day. Beijing does not expect the Philippines to swing fully to China, but we are also clear that the Sino-Philippine friendship is in line with the long-term interests of Duterte and the Philippines as a whole. That's enough. The US and Western mainstream media would be foolish to expect a Manila that is hostile to Beijing for Washington's South China Sea strategy. Such a scenario will probably not reappear during Duterte's term of office.

China should reciprocate Duterte’s overture

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte embarked on his state visit to China today. This visit would have been unimaginable three months ago when the Philippines, as an initiator of the South China Sea arbitration and a key pivot of the US strategy of rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, was in sharp conflict with China over maritime disputes. Duterte has made a fresh start with Beijing-Manila ties and the nation's regional strategies after coming into office, and thus is widely regarded as a "subverter."

Duterte's straightforward way of speaking and acting has made a deep impression on the world. He extended the olive branch to China soon after taking office, making China the first country outside ASEAN for an official visit and speaking publicly in favor of Beijing. Now it's China's turn to receive his olive branch.

Since assuming office, Duterte reprioritized national affairs, taking the public's attention from the South China Sea back to domestic governance. Meanwhile, he insists on Manila's right to an independent foreign policy and opposes Washington's excessive control over the Philippines, which has riled the US. The announcement of a suspension of Washington-Manila joint patrols and military drills has particularly rocked this alliance.

The Philippines plays a special role in the South China Sea situation. Manila is Washington's ally and the most ideal pawn for Washington and Tokyo to intervene in the South China Sea issue. Duterte's predecessor Benigno Aquino III provoked strongly as he was backed by the US and Japan. Washington also counts on Manila to acquire legitimacy to launch South China Sea joint patrols. Once the Sino-Philippine relationship is returned to a friendly track, the US strategy of rebalancing will be undermined in the South China Sea.

Some are suspicious of Duterte's sincerity toward China. However, Duterte's policy has clear logic. China is his best partner in the anti-drug fight and for infrastructure construction. He is realistic and clear that the Philippines is only serving the US China-containment policy if it goes against China on the South China Sea issue.

Duterte's understandings on the Sino-Philippine relationship reflect his left-wing political ideas. Whether he can resist pressure from domestic pro-US forces is key to the issue.

We call on China to grasp this major strategic opportunity brought by the Duterte administration. At the moment, China can make more efforts to facilitate the turnaround of the bilateral relationship. Beijing-Manila ties suffered an overall retreat during Aquino's rule. Two-way trade dropped, Chinese tourist groups to Philippines stopped and fruit imports to China were affected. Changes are now happening.

The Philippine media has focused on the issue of fisheries around Huangyan Island. Duterte, under great domestic pressure, is strongly expected by Philippine media to bring a breakthrough on the issue.

Sovereignty is non-negotiable, but China can adopt a flexible policy on the Philippines' fishing rights. Filipino fishermen fish on a shoestring and are unlikely to jeopardize the ecosystem of China's waters.

A flexible fishing policy will bring the Sino-Philippine relationship to a new stage. As a major power, China should express its goodwill to Filipino fishermen and their president at this time. Washington's strategy of rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific has increased China's diplomatic and economic costs in Southeast Asia, and it is necessary for Beijing to reciprocate Manila for its clear stance of not willing to serve the US' China strategy.

It is more effective to address the disputes in a friendly, instead of a confrontational way. China should make this clear to the world to win more respect in the world.  - Global Times

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US media wanted 'special privileges'

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

World doubts the leadership of Uncle Sam: expert

The culture of guns

As the US has lost more international status and influence since the global financial crisis in 2008, the international community is raising doubts about its leadership and ability to contribute to the world, an expert said, analyzing that such a decline of influence can be attributed to some deep-seated reasons, including its self-willed overseas military operations.

Since the financial crisis, the US can neither provide effective solutions to a host of global challenges, nor sustain its control over other countries, Zhang Ruizhuang, Director of the Center of American Studies at Nankai University, wrote in an article published in the People’s Daily on Sunday.

In the commentary titled “The City upon a Hill is not there any more,” he gave an in-depth analysis on the reasons of such changes.

Zhang says that “A City upon a Hill,” often cited by American politicians as their political creed, verified the self-labelling of the arrogant Americans as “God's Chosen Ones” to lead the world. After the Cold War, the preaching about the superiority of its values brought US much popularity and pulled the country to a commanding stage.

But it over-consumed its accumulated political capital during the last quarter of the 20th century, which resulted in a decline in its global influence, Zhang said, adding that the most destructive threat to its dropping status can be attributed to overseas military operations.

After the Soviet Union collapsed with the end of the Cold War, the US dominated the world and launched a series of capricious measures. With the excuse of protecting democracy, human rights and the world order, Uncle Sam trampled on the post-war international law based on the UN Charter and norms governing global relations by bringing the flames of war to many parts of the world.

Panama, Somalia, Haiti and Kosovo are all victims of such wars waged by the superpower. With a made-up excuse, it pulled Iraq into a war and this political farce finally brought the latter millions of civilian casualties, endless terrorist attacks and ceaseless disturbance.

What the US gained, after it paid a price of trillions of dollars for the war, was a hotbed for terrorist organizations which in turn threatened the security of itself and other Western countries. The war against Iraq ultimately turned out to be a foolish one that not only crumbled its diplomatic morality, but undermined its own strategic interests, Zhang concluded.

Despite the lessons, the US never gave up every opportunity to start “color revolutions.” Its attacks on Libya and Syria, once again, dragged these nations into raging wars. What’s worse, as a result of the wars, a number of regulation vacuums provided ISIS and other religious extremist organizations a bed in which to grow stronger.

The US, its Western allies, as well as the whole world, are now swallowing the sour fruits resulted from its self-willed deed, he added.

According to the scholar, apart from its frequent diplomatic mistakes, its economy, politics and society, in which the Americans once took pride, are all in a predicament, arising more doubts over the superiority of the US system.

The global financial crisis breaking out in 2008 exposed the defects of capitalism once again. It brought to light not only the failure of Keynesian policy to narrow the wealth gap and boost effective demand, but the greed and corruption of financial executives, the ineffectiveness of financial supervision, plus the government’s shielding of tycoons.

The US public felt shock, despair and anger towards such defects, and the ensuing “Occupy Wall Street” movement is one of their ways to express dissatisfaction. The protest wave later spilled to other part of the world, triggering worldwide query over the US system and its values.

Zhang also criticized US domestic politics, citing its notorious presidential election system as an example.

Manipulated by capital, the “winner takes all” election system in many states gives no chance to other newborn parties besides the two major parties. The American elections of the past two to three decades have been more like technical games.

The candidates now focus more on technical details for the sake of more votes rather than their political ideas and governance philosophies, and the whole process has fallen into personal attacks between the two candidates, he added.

Coupled with some other faults, the US and even the whole world began to question on the effectiveness of US democracy, as well as its leader selected in such a flawed way.

The article analyzed that one key reason for its flopping election lies in a lack of innovative governing ideas.

Barely stimulated by major crisis, US society tends to be mediocre and conservative about its ideas, the commentary further explained, adding that the prevailing philosophy of so-called “political correctness” also created an unfavorable environment for the candidates to come up with new ideas acceptable to the public.

Lack of foresighted candidates with outstanding capability is another reason for its unsuccessful election, Zhang wrote.

He explained that some capable politicians are not willing to embarrass themselves on the election stage at the cost of their privacy and that of their family as the butt of jokes.

“As a result, the world was presented with an election farce performed by the two unqualified and big-mouth candidates selected by the two parties,” the author concluded.

“It is obvious that the US is seeing a decline in terms of both prestige and influence, but such a drop is not so eye-catching as it has no strong competitors yet. It would be a complicated historic path,” the scholar said, calling for more attention to the course of the world pattern.

 (People's Daily)

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Monday, October 17, 2016

China successfully launched their 6th manned spaceflight with Shenzhou 11 to Tiangong-2 space lab

Graphics shows the launching process of Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft.(Xinhua/Lu Zhe)

China launches manned spacecraft

China launched the Shenzhou XI manned spacecraft on Monday morning to transport two astronauts to the Tiangong II space laboratory.

The spacecraft was sent skyward at 7:30 am atop a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Northwest China. It is carrying two male astronauts – 49-year-old Jing Haipeng and 37-year-old Chen Dong.

After the launch, the spacecraft will travel two days before docking with the Tiangong II, which was lifted from the Jiuquan center in mid-September. Then the astronauts will enter the space lab and stay there for 30 days, which will be the longest space stay by Chinese astronauts.

The core tasks of the Shenzhou XI mission are to test rendezvous and docking technologies for the country's planned space station, to verify the life-support capability of the spacecraft-space lab combination as well as conduct scientific research and test engineering experiments, according to Wu Ping, deputy director of the China Manned Space Agency.

Prior to the Shenzhou XI, China had sent five spacecraft and 10 astronauts to space since 2003, when it lifted the Shenzhou V to carry the nation's first astronaut Yang Liwei, who is now a senior space official, into space.

China is the third country in the world that has independently fulfilled manned spaceflight following the former Soviet Union and the United States.

China's manned space program, a source of national pride, aims to place a permanent manned space station, which will consist of three parts — a core module attached to two labs, each weighing about 20 metric tons —into service around 2022, according to the manned space agency.

Lab shows early results

After being launched into orbit on Sept 15, the scientific applications of the Tiangong II space laboratory have been tested and have returned data. Here are some of the results:

The cold atomic space clock, the first of its kind in space, has carried out several tests with stable results, as expected. Scientists believe that such a clock can help to synchronize other atomic clocks more precisely, and that the technological development will create more possibilities for further explorations in space.

The multi-angle wide-spectral imager has captured a range of information on oceans and land as well as changes to clouds, aerosols and water.

The stereoscopic microwave altimeter has applied interference image technology to observe sea surfaces, parts of the Yellow River, the Taklimakan Desert, lakes on the Tibetan Plateau and the Lancang-Mekong River.

An agricultural experiment has sprouted seeds of Arabidopsis thaliana, a small flowering plant, and rice. Samples will be cultivated in space and carried back to the Earth by astronauts.

The space-Earth quantum key distribution and laser communications experiment has established stable connections between the space lab and ground stations.

China to enhance space capabilities with launch of Shenzhou-11

Monday's successful launch of the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft is another step forward to put China among leading players in space technology, said Alexander Zheleznyakov, a Russian expert on history of space flights.

The craft with two astronauts aboard is planned to dock with China's second experimental space lab Tiangong-2 launched in mid-September.

The move marked China's latest effort in a couple of months toward a space power, after successes in the maiden flight of its new generation carrier rocket Long March-7 in June, and the launch of the world's first quantum satellite "Micius" in August, among other developments.

China's achievements and programs in space missions, in particular the lunar exploration program that is well planned and steadily advanced with achievable goals, are impressive and admirable, said Zheleznyakov, who is also member of the Tsiolkovsky Russian Academy of Cosmonautics.

He thought that qualities of the Tiangong-2 space lab indicate the way how China would build its planned space station, which is similar to that of the International Space Station, by gradually docking other space modules with the basic cabin.

Zheleznyakov believed that China's experimental space lab will help provide solutions for spacecraft of different functions to approach and dock, and for a long-term operation of life support system, among others, in order to increase both the safety of astronauts and the service life span of the space station.

He expected to see a node module at China's future space station with multiple docking ports, compared to the only one currently at the Tiangong-2.

The Russian expert added that manned space missions can help push the development of other industries, especially high-tech ones, as space projects involve new materials, advanced application programs and innovative technical solutions, including cutting-edge results in many areas.

Igor Lisov, a prominent Russian space expert and an editor at the industry magazine Cosmonautics News, also spoke highly of China's steady progress in its manned spaceflight programs.

With the achievements made, China can now test technologies for cargo spacecraft docking, life support system operation and water recycling, among others, so as to ensure a long-term continuous operation of its space station in future with less dependance on replenishment from the Earth, he said.

Sergey Zhukov, a test cosmonaut and president of the Moscow Space Club,said it will be the right choice for China to build a space station on the basis of the cylinder structure of the Tiangong-2 space lab.

On the prospects of China's space station, Zhukov believed that advances in technology would likely turn future space station into a terminal to enable manned space missions further beyond as well as stopovers of spacecraft such as mooncraft for maintenance and cargo relays.

Broader space cooperation between Russia and China will benefit each other, he added. Xinhua

The future of the space race

The history of the space race goes back as early as the 1960s. Back then, the former Soviet Union and the United States were competing for the power of technological superiority.

But now, China has made it a 3-way race, with all three countries developing their respective space programs. However, the three countries are all headed in different directions, as each space program has its own aims and priorities.

Let's take a closer look at what the future of the space race could look like.

The space race of the 1960's between the former Soviet Union and the United States was about power, bragging rights which nation was technologically superior.

Today, the space race is well, maybe a brisk walk. And the three major space faring nations the U.S., China and Russia appear at this point, headed in different directions. So where are the big three going

Since the Shuttle Atlantis landed back at the Kennedy Space Center five years ago, the U.S. has not had the capability to put humans in space. You heard me right.

The U.S. relies on the Russians, at a cost of 65 million dollars a seat, to carry its astronauts to and from the International Space Station. That could change by 2018 when private companies Boeing and Space X should have vehicles ready to ferry astronauts.

With these Station missions turned over to private companies, NASA, the U.S. space agency is now concentrating on building a massive new rocket and a spacecraft, Orion, to carry astronauts first to an asteroid rendezvous and then Mars in the 2030s. Some U.S. partners would like to see a moon mission as a stepping stone to Mars. But NASA rarely uses the moon and Mars in the same sentence.

China on the other hand seems destined and determined to send humans to the moon.

Methodically and in measured steps, China is building toward a permanent presence in space. The Tiangong 2 Space Lab with improved living quarters and life support will be home to two Chinese astronauts for at least thirty days conducting experiments in physics, biology and space medicine.

A mission to put a lander on the moon's dark side is in the works for 2018. And a permanent space station could be in orbit by the early 2020s. All are precursors to landing its astronauts on the moon.

Russia would like to go to the moon too. But the country's struggling economy has forced a tightening of the space budget. Plans for a powerful new rocket that would take cosmonauts to the moon is delayed. But the Russians are still planning a sample return mission in the 2020's and eyeing a 2030 lunar landing. A morale boost could come this week.

A joint Russia-European Space Agency probe is scheduled to deploy a rover to the Martian surface. Russia's last successful planetary probe was in 1984. One unanswered question is whether Russia and United States will go their separate ways if the International Space Station's mission ends as planned in 2024 or continue to play in the same sandbox.

What happens in the future with the big three space powers will likely come down to politics as it usually does. Outside of cooperation in space, the U.S.-Russia relationship is strained and that may well spill over into space relations.

China was never a part of the space station family of nations. And, the U.S. congress forbids NASA from cooperating with China. So, China has been going it alone quite nicely. But nobody is getting along very well. It is possible that by the middle of the next decade, all three will be going their own ways and perhaps all in different directions.

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

China to send two astronauts to Tiangong-2 space lab tomorrow

Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng (L) and Chen Dong meet the media at a press conference at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, October 16, 2016. The two male astronauts will carry out the Shenzhou-11 mission. The Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft will be launched at 7:30 am October 17, 2016 Beijing Time (2330 GMT Oct. 16). Photo: Xinhua

Both astronauts introduced at press conference

China's space program is set to launch its manned spacecraft the Shenzhou-11. Today authorities revealed the identities of the two astronauts that will be sent to space

China to launch Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft on Oct 17

The Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft will be launched at 7:30 a.m. Monday Beijing Time, China's manned space program spokesperson said Sunday.

The spaceship will take two male astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong into space, said Wu Ping, deputy director of China's manned space engineering office, at a press conference at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

The mission will be carried out with a Long March-2F carrier rocket, Wu said.

The spacecraft will dock with orbiting space lab Tiangong-2 within two days, and the astronauts will stay in the space lab for 30 days, she said.

After that the Shenzhou-11 spaceship will separate with Tiangong-2 and return to Earth within one day, Wu said.

The mission aims to transport personnel and materials between Earth and Tiangong-2, and examine rendezvous, docking and return technologies.

During the mission, the spacecraft will form a complex with Tiangong-2. The complex's capabilities of supporting astronauts' life, work and health, and astronauts' abilities for carrying out flight missions will be tested, Wu said.

Other objectives include conducting aerospace medical experiments, space science experiments and in-orbit maintenance with human participation, along with activities to popularize scientific knowledge, she added.

Several technical alterations have been made to Shenzhou-11, though its main functions and technical parameters remain basically the same with Shenzhou-10, Wu said.

To meet the needs of this mission, the orbit control strategy and flight procedures have been adjusted to adapt Shenzhou-11 to the change of the rendezvous, docking and return orbit from 343 kilometers to 393 kilometers from Earth.

The layout of cargo loading has been adjusted to enhance transportation capabilities for the mission.

To further improve the spacecraft's reliability and astronauts' safety, wide-beam relay telecommunications devices have been equipped, which will significantly expand the scope of telemetry, tracking and control, as well as improve the space-ground communication support capabilities when the posture of the spacecraft is changing rapidly.

To verify future space technologies and meet the demand for prolonging the service life of rendezvous, telemetry and tracking devices in future space stations, such devices in Shenzhou-11 have been upgraded, according to Wu.

Certain technical alterations have also been made to the carrier rocket, she said. - Xinhua


Achievement of China's space industry in 60 years

This year marks 60 years of China's space industry. What have they archived?

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Sabah's watergate scandal unfolds, civil service back in vogue - for the wrong reasons


Sabah's watergate scandal unfolds

THE amount involved in Sabah’s watergate scandal is unbelievable.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) seized RM114mil worth of assets –RM53.7mil in cold cash stashed in houses and office – from two senior Sabah Water Department officials on Oct 4.

The duo were investigated for alleged abuse of power and money laundering linked to contracts for RM3.3bil federal-funded projects channelled to the department since 2010. Two others – a Datuk businessman who is a brother of one of the officials and an accountant – were also arrested.

Six days later, MACC traced RM30mil stashed in foreign banks and another RM30mil in 127 land titles for housing, agriculture and commercial.

That’s not all.

MACC also seized nine vehicles worth RM2.7mil, an assortment of jewellery worth RM3.64mil and designer handbags worth RM500,000.

The following Tuesday (Oct 11), three Sabah Water Department employees “voluntarily” surrendered about RM1mil allegedly taken in the process of approving water projects under the RM3.3bil federal allocations.

When you go out of the state capital, you’ll find Sabahans depending on rivers, streams, ponds, wells or rain for their daily needs.

What do we tell M. R., a 34-year-old Rungus housewife from Kampung Bongkok in Pitas, about the Sabah Watergate?

Since she was born, she has relied on wells, rivers or ponds in the jungle to bathe, wash clothes and dishes, and on rainwater for drinking and cooking. Daily, she has to walk a few kilometres to carry 10 litres of water back to her house.

Her water woes worsen when there is no rain for weeks.

“The villagers will be suffering, especially getting water for drinking and cooking,” she said.

“What’s your comment on the Sabah watergate?” I asked.

“That’s what is heartbreaking. We have been asking for piped water for our village. But the excuse they give to us is the source of treated water in Pitas town is about 28km from our village,” she said.

“If the funds meant for water projects were used properly, we would have clean water supply for which we have waited for many decades.”

What do we tell M. J., a 37-year-old Bisayah civil servant from Kampung Sukai in Beaufort about the Sabah watergate?

There is a water pipe that runs through M. J.’s village. However, no water flows in the pipes and yet the villagers are billed for it.

“The pipes were installed in 2010. We had water for about one year and then it went dry, maybe because of leakage,” he said.

Now many villagers rely on the blue water tank they got during elections.

“When there is no rain, some of the villagers have to buy water from a town about 30km away for drinking and cooking,” he said.

“For other uses, the villagers get murky water from wells and a polluted river along a mangrove swamp.”

“What’s your comment on the Sabah watergate?” I asked.

“As a true Sabah-born I’m extremely disappointed. The people’s first call is not delivered because of greed. If only a portion of the money were distributed, the villagers would not be thirsty for the promises made by politicians.”

What do we tell N.V. H., a 49-year-old Chinese businessman from a suburb in Tawau town, about the Sabah watergate?

Once a week, there is a water cut lasting three to 12 hours in his residential area. During the previous El Nino season, there were 12-hour water cuts on alternative days for two months.

With the constant water cuts in Tawau, he had to install two 400-gallon stainless steel water tanks and pneumatic water pumps at his home. He also had to install two 100-gallon water tanks and automatic on-off water pumps at the ground floor of his shop and another 400-gallon water tank and pneumatic water pump at the first floor. The total cost is RM16,000.

N.V.H.’s household has never experienced water woes, as supplies from water tanks last for five days.

“What’s your comment on the Sabah watergate?” I asked.

“Of course I’m angry when I come across all these water scandals. But we can’t do anything about it,” he said.

What do we tell M. S., a 47-year-old Bajau Sama managing consultant from Kota Belud, about the Sabah watergate?

The shortage of clean water in his district is unexplainable, he said.

“What’s your comment on the Sabah watergate?” I asked. “There is an abundant water source from Mount Kinabalu, flowing through rivers across Kota Belud. The rivers are full of water yet it has failed to be converted into clean water,” he said.

The water supply covers about 30% of the villages in the district and the rest depend on untreated gravity water.

“Sad to say that some villages have a piping system but no water. The water department implements piping projects in every election. Yet the clean water shortage is here to stay,” he said.

I pray that the MACC’s investigation reaches to the top. And that those who are responsible will pay for their greed.

One man's meat by Philip Golingai The Star/ANN

Civil service back in vogue - for the wrong reasons

THE civil service may fall short in meeting the job prospects of a large number of people, but it has made up with abundant opportunities for self-enrichment – if one is prepared to take the risk of facing the law.

In a nutshell, the “Watergate” incident involving top officials from the Sabah Water Department is increasingly serving as an eye opener for the majority who had shunned the civil service previously due to limited prospects and lower remuneration compared to the private sector.

As the number of people involved in the “Watergate” discovery keep stacking up, with some junior officers returning money to become state witnesses – the chatter in coffee shops is on the level of abuse within the civil service when it comes to handing out contracts through a restricted tender process.

To be fair, the majority of Malaysia’s 1.2 million-strong civil service are merely ordinary employees providing a service to the public. They carry out their duties diligently despite the constraints and remuneration.

However, there is something wrong with the system when we hear that even basic matters such as the transfer of a student from a mediocre school to a school that is “highly sought after”, or students seeking grants and scholarships from the Government may require some kind of monetary gratification to someone within or outside the system.

Generally, cases involving a small exchange of money go unreported because the party that is prepared to hand out the gratification just wants to go about their business with a minimum of hassle. At most, the topic is fodder for talk among friends or relatives. But when millions are seized from the homes and offices of civil servants – money supposedly meant to upgrade the water services in Sabah – it no longer is merely coffee-shop chatter.

It has been a topic of serious discussion almost everywhere in the last 10 days.

When Budget 2017 is announced next week, the nation will see another round of Government allocation to various ministries for their expenditure and development. In the budget last year, the Federal Government estimated the operating and development expenditure for this year to be RM265.22bil. Generally, the development expenditure is less than RM50bil and the rest goes towards the cost of operating the Federal Government.

While in previous years, the focus was on the Government’s growing operating expenditure, which means less money for development, the question that will be racing on the minds of many is how much of the amount allocated is going to be siphoned off in the form of corruption and kick-backs for inflating the cost of projects and “fixing” restricted tenders.

The Government has limited options in its spending, considering that there is a target to keep the fiscal deficit down. This year, the fiscal deficit is expected to be negative 3.2%, which is a remarkable improvement compared to negative 4.3% in 2012 and a figure of more than negative 5% in 2009.

Next year, we are supposed to bring down the fiscal deficit to 3%, meaning Government spending has to be cut further.

It is part of the plan to have a balanced budget by 2020, which is only four years away. A balanced budget means that what the Federal Government receives in revenue is enough to cover its operating and development expenditure.

Many countries tend to keep a surplus budget, something that comes in handy during bad times. A fiscal surplus effectively means the Government earns more money than it spends. It has reserves that can be touched when it needs to spend more than what it earns. And a fiscal surplus or balanced budget commands the respect of rating agencies.

Earlier this week, Australia’s 30-year debt papers garnered a triple-A rating despite the country going through an economic slowdown due to the fall in the resources sector. The country used to run a surplus budget until 2007.

As for Malaysia, achieving a balanced budget by 2020 is part of a plan to shore up the country’s balance sheet. However, the Government must ensure that the machinery works towards optimising every ringgit spent.

In the case of the Sabah Water Department incident, alleged abuse was allowed to happen due to the practice of having “restricted tenders” when awarding contracts. It is a common practice in all departments and ministries. The only difference is the amount that can be awarded.

For instance, at the ministry level, the level of approval for the minister to award contracts through restricted tenders can go up to RM100mil or more. As long as there are eight to 10 companies that are registered with the ministry competing in the restricted tender exercise, the minister can award the job to the lowest bidder.

The companies tend to act in concert, something that is known to the officers handling the tender process. When the contract is awarded to one company at an inflated price, the other companies get paid for their participation.

The officers in the ministry are also being rewarded and it goes down from the top to several layers down. The restricted tender process can easily be a farce!

The argument that favours a restricted tender is that it can be awarded quickly compared to an open tender, where the evaluation process is often time-consuming. However, a competitive open tender process allows for an efficient price-discovery mechanism.

For instance, the 1,000MW Prai power plant in Seberang Perai was awarded on a competitive tender. The winning bid came in on a tariff of 34.7 sen per unit, which is now the benchmark for any future gas-fired power plants.

Restricted tenders have been quite prevalent in the past few years. However, they have a massive amount of drawbacks, based on the rising number of civil servants being charged or under investigation for corruption.

However, the restricted tender process has brought back the allure of the civil service – for the wrong reasons though.

There was a time in the 1960s and 1970s when civil servants were the preferred choice of grooms in arranged marriages. It was apparent especially among Indian parents.

From the mid-80s onwards, the shift was towards those working in the private sector, especially prospective grooms in large multinational companies holding mid-management positions.

Now, the civil service sector is back in vogue – especially positions that involve the awarding of contracts. All thanks to the enormous publicity that “Watergate” has drawn.

- The alternative view by M. Shangmugam, The Star/ANN

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Penang Free School: Learning religiously - without religion !

Penang Free School:

Penang Free School, the first English school in the country, turns 200 in a week. It was, and remains, a school for the brave and the true. And for the Free.

WE’RE on the cusp of history. A week from today, the oldest English school in the country, Penang Free School, will turn 200. It’s a proud moment for the school. And for yours truly. I spent my formative years in that school.

It’s the kind of school that cliches are made off – you can take a student out of Free School but you can never take the Free out of the students. We will always be Old Frees.

The old boys are already celebrating. There have been golf tournaments, dinners and get-togethers lined up. There was a 73-day, 20,000km road convoy from Penang to Dittisham, Devon, in Britain, where the founder of PFS, Reverend Robert S. Hutchings, was born.

The six-vehicle convoy left on July 17 and arrived at its destination on Oct 3.

The huge school field is now covered with canopies waiting for the thousands of Old Frees who will gather there on Oct 21 to celebrate the grand old dame’s birthday.

The field is one of the things most Old Frees would remember. It was both a blessing and a bane. With two football fields, three hockey pitches and a cricket pitch, it was great for outdoor activities.

The track around the field was good training ground for long-distance runners. But for the errant ones in school, it was a pain. The teachers made you run around the field as punishment. If you were not athletically inclined, that was punishing indeed.

But it was the teachers who made the school wonderful. We had some of the best and most dedicated teachers – not just in the subjects they taught but also in sports.

There was Wilson Doss, the cricket-mad teacher. He played for Selangor, Penang and even in international matches and he would try to get every lad in the school to give the sport a try-out.

I have to admit to being an absolute flop at it. With only the experience of playing “rounders” with the neighbourhood gang, I would hurl the cricket bat away as I ran. And Mr Wilson would growl.

There was N. Vallupillay, the hockey coach with the kindest of souls. He, too, would try to get everyone to play hockey and among the top players he nurtured was former national captain Ow Soon Kooi.

With Vallupillay at the helm, PFS was the state’s school hockey champion for 20 years from 1964 to 1984. The rivalry with St Xavier’s Institution and the Bukit Mertajam High School was intense, sometimes even rowdy.

Vallupillay then moved to George Town Secondary School and voila, that school became another hockey powerhouse in the state.

Then, there was Johnny Ooi, yet another teacher who was very much into hockey and who took over when Mr Vallupillay left.

Ooi Bee Seng was the basketball man. Under his watch, more basketball courts were built and more of the students turned to the game.

Nai Bej Sararaks was the athletics guy. Every now and then, he would bundle a gang of us into his beat-up jalopy and drive us off to training. The one I vividly remember was when we ran up Penang Hill from what Penangites know as Moongate.

The man waited at the bottom of the hill as the bunch of us ran up to the top of the hill and later scrambled all the way down. He was there with some juice before taking us all back to the school.

There was no need then for sports schools or schools of excellence. The teachers delivered. It’s been some years but I believe the teachers in the school are still a dedicated bunch.

But the real wonder of the school is the belief on which it is built – that it should be free from religion and open to all.

It’s a very strange thing. At a time when almost all education was under the care of priests (or brothers), there was one Rev Hutchings who did not want to impose his religious beliefs on the local populace.

When Hutchings first petitioned for a “free school”, his aim was to provide a school to educate, feed, and clothe orphans and poor children. It wasn’t about religion – only about education.

Yes, there was a bit of “free” in the financial sense. Only those who could afford it were asked to pay $3, $2, and $1 per year. Poor children were exempted.

The country has come a long, long way from then. Education standards have slumped. We have been dithering over the direction we want to take. Sports in schools is no longer a big thing. Few teachers believe in the power of sports.

Instead, religion has come into schools in a big way. There is a lot of emphasis on religious education and rituals, causing our children to drift apart from one another.

There really is a need for more new “free” schools – schools where education and sports are where the emphasis is.

Why Not? By Dorairaj Nadason is The Star’s Executive Editor.

The writer, who can be reached at, still salutes the gates of the school when he drives by. She is, after all, alma mater – the mother who nurtured him.

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