Did Shenzhou-2 Go Splat
Hong Kong - Jan. 19, 2001
In the three days since Shenzhou-2 returned to Earth, China has released not a single photo of the capsule. This is in stark contrast to the first Shenzhou mission in late 1999 when China released a whole series of photos of the spacecraft after it landed in central China.
There is now growing suspicion that the landing portion of the Shenzhou-2 mission was maybe not as successful as China's official state media has claimed.
One China watcher told Spacedaily that in a closed society like China this would be a typical response as the various players position themselves to shift the blame.
Unfortunately failure is more the rule than the exception with space development. For example, Mars exploration is currently running at about 50/50 with a whole string of failures for both the US and Russia. And as any telecom operator knows an expensive launch failure can happen no matter how much quality control is applied.
But with so much at stake, China may feel compelled to cover up a failed mission.
On the other hand there may be a perfectly valid explanation for the lack of post landing photos. Unlike Shenzhou-1 which was not announced until the mission had landed, Shenzhou-2 was announced as the spacecraft blasted off. In the hours and days that followed China released a surprising amount of information through its various state media outlets. As such the explanation might be that given an initial flurry of openness the censorship has begun at the end of the mission.
But with so much national pride at stake surely a successful touchdown would have been the perfect occasion on which to release a set of photos and video of the spacecraft taken the next day after sunrise.
The next 48 hours should prove to be very interesting.
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Shenzhou Spacecraft Structure Partially Revealed
Beijing - Jan. 17, 2001
Some details of the Shenzhou manned spacecraft structure came to light Jan. 15 in an article published in the Beijing Evening Post. Although there was no significant revelation in the article, the bits and pieces of information offers a teasing glimpse of the enigmatic Shenzhou spacecraft.