That's One Small Step for China...

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Get ready for Part II of the space race. China moved closer to playing in the manned space flight game Sunday following a successful unmanned test flight of a spacecraft designed to carry passengers into Earth orbit. The Shenzhou, China's answer to the Apollo capsule, is based on the design of the Russian Soyuz, and the Russians are also helping to construct the life support system and to train the Chinese "taikonauts." China may be able to conduct a manned flight as early as next fall, and officials have even speculated about possibly sending someone to the moon within 10 years.

But wait a minute. Didn't we already do this 30 or 40 years ago? Is there any point to being the third country in space? Well, there's national pride, for one thing, and China can hardly reach superpower status if it doesn't have the accoutrements. And the Chinese military has, as Christopher Cox pointed out this summer, um, "taken an interest" in the military possibilities of satellite launches. But NASA execs worried about espionage can rest easy. Remember, the Chinese already have spaceship designs from the Russians.