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China's Feat in Space Is Hailed in Streets of Shanghai

The near-universal reaction is one of immense national pride

2 min read

17 October 2003--Yang Liuwei, in the span of 21 hours and 14 orbits around the Earth, has become China's newest hero. As the country's first ”taikonaut,” the Chinese term for astronaut or cosmonaut, the 38-year-old man from northeastern China has quickly replaced basketball star Yao Ming as China's most valued homegrown talent. ”He's definitely China's most respected man,” says a Shanghai resident surnamed Xu. ”He's done what no other Chinese person has done before.”

Creating sentiments of national pride that residents like Xu have expressed in recent days is one of the goals of China's emerging space program. There is, of course, the goal of putting the country's fast-growing aerospace prowess to scientific use. China has already sent plant seeds into orbit to breed new varieties that have higher yields and better quality, according to the official Xinhua news agency. But the major point that China has proved with the 16 October space launch is that it is becoming a global power, as the third country to send a manned spacecraft to outer space.

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Two men fix metal rods to a gold-foiled satellite component in a warehouse/clean room environment

Technicians at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems facilities in Redondo Beach, Calif., work on a mockup of the JWST spacecraft bus—home of the observatory’s power, flight, data, and communications systems.

NASA

For a deep dive into the engineering behind the James Webb Space Telescope, see our collection of posts here.

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveals its first images on 12 July, they will be the by-product of carefully crafted mirrors and scientific instruments. But all of its data-collecting prowess would be moot without the spacecraft’s communications subsystem.

The Webb’s comms aren’t flashy. Rather, the data and communication systems are designed to be incredibly, unquestionably dependable and reliable. And while some aspects of them are relatively new—it’s the first mission to use Ka-band frequencies for such high data rates so far from Earth, for example—above all else, JWST’s comms provide the foundation upon which JWST’s scientific endeavors sit.

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