SushiVSYamcha writes with a link to an article on the Seattle Times site, discussing the newly-heated Asian space race. Following Russia and the US into orbit are the nations of Japan and China, now struggling to one-up the other in a competition for scientific and national pride. The piece covers Japan's new initiative to catch up to the Chinese program, as well as some history of the competition "China launched its first manned space flight in 2003. A second mission in 2005 put two astronauts into orbit for a week, and a third manned launch is planned for next year. This year, China also plans to launch a probe that will orbit the moon. Earlier this month, the country launched a Long March 3-A rocket that sent a navigation satellite into orbit as part of its effort to build a global positioning system. The satellite is the fourth China has launched as part of the Compass navigation system, which is expected to be operational in 2008."