Taikonauts and Gymnastronauts

Taikonauts and Gymnastronauts

Taikonauts and Gymnastronauts

From September 23-27th 2013, I attended IAC 2013 in Beijing to report on progress about the Google Lunar XPRIZE and see what information I could glean on the upcoming Chinese lunar mission.

The Opening Ceremony, like the congress as a whole, was a great chance to see what China’s particular combination of cultural heritage and social model can offer the world in terms of space exploration, space science and space utilization. Most memorable for me was the amazing gymnastics display representing an astronaut literally walking on stars. 


A Chinese gymnast performing at the IAC 2013 Opening Ceremony

(photos courtesy of iafastro)


Talking about gymnastics, there was also some of the verbal kind during the Head’s of Agencies Panel Discussion on the first day. The head of the China National Space Administration offered up a clear invitation to other nations to participate in China’s manned spaceflight program, and the Taikonauts were on display throughout the congress. China’s focus at present seems to be on capturing the hearts and minds of developing nations by appealing to their space ambitions, thus continuing the long-standing use of space as a geopolitical tool. In stark contrast to USA’s policymakers’ concerns about space technology cooperation with China, the head of ESA made it pretty clear that European governments have no qualms about flying their astronauts or experiments on a Chinese station in the future. No doubt ESA is driving a hard bargain with the other member nations of the ISS that operate human-rated launch systems, namely the USA and Russia.

China’s upcoming robotic moon landing mission, Chang’e 3, is of high interest to the GLXP community, and I scoured the halls of the convention center trying to get more details about this very interesting mission. Unfortunately, I was unable to glean much more than the high-level public statements about the mission’s launch date (currently December 2nd) and the scientific and technical objectives (impressive).



A mock-up of China’s Upcoming Chang’e 3 lunar mission

At the congress I presented my two GLXP-related papers:

  • “Update on the Google Lunar XPRIZE” (IAC-13,A3,2A,5x17639), and
  • “Quantifying the Market Addressable by Google Lunar XPRIZE Teams” (IAC-13,B4.8,4x17642)

In the update paper I talked about how next year’s going to be a really exciting one for GLXP (more news about that soon). The other paper summarized the results of a market study that we recently commissioned from London Economics, which estimated the size of the global market that GLXP teams can address in the years following the prize.

Finally, I feel obliged to mention one negative thing about my week in Beijing, namely the unacknowledged terraforming experiment that China is apparently conducting. I’ve never experienced the level of smog that I witnessed in Beijing (see photo).



A typical morning during my week in Beijing - the sun is that faint red circle you can barely see above the (barely visible) Bird’s Nest stadium

I sincerely hope that China can slow or redirect the path of its ongoing industrial revolution, perhaps taking advantage of the simultaneous information revolution, such that its citizens and our planet can breathe a bit easier.



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