CHINA: According to sources, China on Sunday launched the second of the three modules needed to finish building its new space station, marking the latest development in Beijing’s ambitious space program.
At 2:22 PM (06:22 GMT), a ‘Long March 5B rocket’ launched the uncrewed spaceship with the call sign Wentian from the Wenchang launch facility on China’s tropical island of Hainan.
A spokeswoman for the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) announced that the launch had been a “success” thirty minutes later.
Hundreds of people gathered on nearby beaches to photograph the launcher as it rose through the air in a cloud of white smoke.
The Wentian lab module successfully separated from the rocket and entered its intended orbit after about eight minutes of flight, the CMSA reported. This made the launch a success.
In April 2021, Beijing launched the main module of the Tiangong space station, which is Chinese for “heavenly palace.”
The new module, over 18 metres (60 feet) long and 22 tonnes (48,500 pounds) in weight features three sleeping rooms and a room for scientific investigations.
It will dock with the current module in space, a complex procedure requiring a robotic arm and multiple high-precision manipulations.
According to Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, “China has never docked such huge ships together, which is a difficult process.”
According to him, the space station will have a “quite strange L-shape” until the next module comes, requiring a lot of electricity to maintain stability.
He told AFP that China had never encountered any of these technical issues, initially introduced by the USSR with the Mir space station in the late 1980s.
But it will produce a station that is considerably more capable and has the room and resources to do more scientific research.
Wentian will also serve as a fallback platform for controlling the space station in the event of a failure.
After the third and final module docks in October, Tiangong, which should have a lifespan of at least 10 years, is expected to function by the end of the year entirely.
Quick Space Plan
Under Chinese President Xi Jinping, the nation’s publicised “space dream” preparations have stepped up.
China has made great strides toward catching up to the United States and Russia, both of which have astronauts and cosmonauts with substantial experience in space exploration.
The CSS (Chinese Space Station) will be built in one and a half years, which will be the quickest building time for any modular space station in history, claims Chen Lan, an analyst for the website Go-Taikonauts.com, which focuses on China’s space program.
In contrast, the construction of Mir and the International Space Station took 10 and 12 years, respectively.
The Chinese space programme sent rovers and probes to the Moon and Mars.
Beijing also intends to construct a facility on the Moon and send people there by 2030, in addition to a space station.
Since the United States forbade NASA from cooperating with China, China has been denied access to the International Space Station.
Even while China does not intend to use the space station for international cooperation on the same scale as the ISS, Beijing has declared that it is open to foreign collaboration.
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