Sci-tech

China gets a flying start on building its own space station

China gets a flying start on building its own space station”

But its role as the sole venue for a continuous human presence in space, scientific research and a testing ground for future space exploration is coming to a close, potentially signaling an end to an unparalleled era of global cooperation in space.

People watch a Long March 5B rocket, which carries China's Tianhe space station core module, lifting off from the Wenchang Space Launch Center, in southern China's Hainan province on Thursday.

With the construction of the space station, China has started its largest ambitious space program project to date.

The completed station will be similar to the Soviet "Mir" station that orbited Earth from the 1980s until 2001.

If the ISS were to cease operating in the coming years - and secure its operation until 2024 - China would likely be the only country with a space station.

The ISS is backed by leading countries including the United States, Russia and Japan. Its successor, Tiangong-2, was successfully thrown from space in 2018. Experiment modules named Wentian and Mengtian, expected to launch in 2022, will host a plethora of experiments in areas including astronomy, space medicine, space life science, biotechnology, microgravity fluid physics, microgravity combustion and space technologies.

It put the first Chinese "taikonaut" in space in 2003 and landed the Chang'e-4 robot on the far side of the Moon in 2019 - a historic first.

The country has more than 40 orbital launches planned for this year, according to CAST, reflecting the country's space exploration ambitions at a time when the U.S.is barely increasing funding for the costly National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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China has launched two test units in the past decade in preparation for a permanent installation.

China, which completed 39 launch missions previous year, or about one third of the world's total, has a spaceship now orbiting Mars ahead of a planned landing scheduled for mid-May, according to officials. China also indicated it wanted to build a separate Lunar station and hurtle a space telescope into orbit, as reported by SpaceNews. The uncrewed Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft is now expected to rendezvous and dock with Tianhe in mid-late May, ahead of the visit of three astronauts aboard Shenzhou-12 in June. A Long March 2F rocket and Shenzhou spacecraft will also be on standby at all times at Jiuquan to perform emergency rescue missions to the space station, a senior space official stated in March.

The CSS will also be joined in orbit by the Xuntian optical module, a co-orbiting, Hubble-class space telescope.

China's space exploration program has gathered pace under President Xi Jinping, who aims to cut reliance on foreign technology under the country's latest five-year economic plan which runs through 2025.

China's unmanned moon mission in December carried rocks and soil sample back to Earth, making it the third country after the US and Russian Federation to carry out this feat.

But lunar work was dealt a setback in 2017 when the Long March-5 Y2, a powerful heavy-lift rocket, failed to launch on a mission to send communication satellites into orbit. The first, Tiangong-1, which means "Heavenly Palace-1", was abandoned and burned at the uncontrolled loss of the path.

It includes a Mars orbiter, a lander and a rover that will study the planet's soil.

China hopes to ultimately land the rover in May in Utopia, a massive impact basin on Mars.



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