China Remains Determined to Put a Man in Space Newhouse News Service

Eight centuries after the Chinese invented gunpowder-propelled rockets, their country’s space program is in full swing and on the verge of sending up its first astronauts, or “taikonauts.” In fact, one leading expert says the Columbia disaster could spur China to launch humans into space this year while NASA’s shuttle program is on hold. “They’re going to recognize that if they can launch while the shuttle fleet is potentially grounded, it will emphasize to the world the degree of their technical achievement,” said Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., and author of a book on China and space.