China accelerates space program, plots out course to beat US and Russia | ExtremeTech Two days ago, China turned on Compass (Beidou-2), its homegrown replacement for the US GPS and Russian GLONASS global navigation satellite systems. Then, yesterday, if you needed any confirmation that itâ€™s in it for the long haul, China published its full space plans up until 2016. Most notably, China will launch manned space craft, space laboratories to analyze our solar system and universe (like Hubble), and the beginnings of a space station to rival ISS. Chinaâ€™s own personal space race has been tearing along with terrifying momentum. In 2003, some 44 years after the USSR launched Yuri Gagarin into space, China became the third country to launch a human into space â€” and now, eight years later, it has a functional satellite-based navigation system, is working on an orbiting space station, wants to send probes into deep space to explore the planets, asteroids, and the sun, and eventually manned expeditions to the Moon and Mars. By 2016, China will improve its launch vehicles, launch advanced communications and meteorological satellites, launch deep space probes and laboratories, and launch more Compass satellites until it rivals GPS and GLONASS in terms of accuracy and coverage. At this point itâ€™s safe to say that China is serious about its space program, and its continued success is now a matter of national pride and prestige. While its space agency (CNSA) has a tiny budget compared to NASA, its efforts seem to be heavily focused on space exploration, while NASA has its fingers in many different pies. Obviously, it is also easier and cheaper for China to follow in US and Russian footsteps, too, rather than forging new ground like the incredibly-expensive Apollo program. With the worldâ€™s largest high-tech workforce and the best access to the rare earth metals that bleeding edge technology requires, China is perfectly poised to take the space exploration crown from America. Now, I know itâ€™s fashionable for American sites to prophecize the downfall of the US and rise of China as the One True Superpower, but it would be remiss of us to not point out that China, four years ago, launched a ground-based missile into one of its dead satellites. Unlike NASA, which is a civilian organization, the Chinese space program is run by the Peopleâ€™s Liberation Army, Chinaâ€™s military. The US and Russia, seeing China successfully hit a satellite from Earth, were understandably rather nervous â€” and when combined with Compass, which could guide intercontinental ballistic missiles from China to anywhere on the globe, perhaps itâ€™s OK to be a little concerned. China maintains that its space program is peaceful, however, and currently cooperates with Russia, Brazil, and Europe, but not the US.