Courtesy NASAFrom NASA’s Image of the Day this past Tuesday:
On Oct. 4, 1957, Sputnik 1 successfully launched and entered Earth's orbit. Thus, began the space age. The successful launch shocked the world, giving the former Soviet Union the distinction of putting the first human-made object into space. The word 'Sputnik' originally meant 'fellow traveler,' but has become synonymous with 'satellite' in modern Russian.
This past September 30, almost exactly 54 years later, China launched their first inhabitable space laboratory module, Tiangong-1. The module, a part of a large and ambitious national space program, is the first step in placing a larger modular space station in orbit by 2020.
Combine this effort with Chinese plans to visit the moon and a manned Mars mission, could this be the beginning of a new space race? Personally, I hope so. NASA needs a kick in the pants, and a little “friendly” competition with China could push NASA and its partners in a good way.