Beijing (AP) —China will launch the first permanent space station core module this week as the latest major step in the country’s space exploration program.
The Tianhe, or “Harmony of Heaven” module, is set to be thrown into space on the Long March 5 rocket from the Wenchang Launch Center on the southern island of Hainan. If everything goes according to plan, the launch could take place as early as Thursday night.
This is the first of 11 missions to build and supply a space station for a crew of three.
It shows the planned launch and the past and future of China’s space program.
11 missions planned to complete the space station by the end of 2022
After 10 more launches, 2 more modules will be sent. 4 freight transport and 4 crew missions. At least 12 astronauts, including veterans, newcomers and women from previous flights, are training to fly and live in the station.
When completed by the second half of 2022, Tianhe is expected to weigh about 66 tons. This is a fraction of the International Space Station, which launched its first module in 1998, and weighs about 450 tonnes when completed. Tianhe has a docking port that can also connect to the powerful Chinese space satellites. In theory, it can be extended with more modules.
Tianhe’s main module will initially be about the same size as the US Skylab space station in the 1970s and the former Soviet / Russian meal that has been in operation for over 14 years since its launch in 1986.
Space station long-term goal
China has launched two experimental modules in the last decade in preparation for a permanent station. One is that Tiangong-1, which means “Tiangong-1”, was abandoned and burned out in the event of an uncontrollable orbital loss. The successor, Tiangong-2, was successfully taken off track in 2018.
China began preparing a space station in the early 1990s as the space program gained momentum. It was excluded from the ISS, primarily due to the secret nature of the Chinese program and US opposition to close military ties.
Rapid progress in space
After years of successful launches of rockets and commercial satellites, China launched its first astronaut into space in October 2003. It was the third country to do this independently, following the former Soviet Union and the United States. Since the mission of Shenzhou 5, China has put other astronauts in orbit, assigned crew members to the original Tiangu station, and carried out extravehicular activities.
We are also strengthening our cooperation with space experts from other countries such as France, Sweden, Russia and Italy. NASA needs permission from a passive parliament to engage in such contacts.
China also promoted crewless missions, especially on lunar exploration, landing rover on the other side of the moon, which is barely explored. In December, the Chang’e 5 spacecraft returned the moon rocks to Earth for the first time since the US mission in the 1970s.
Mars Rover and Future Ambition
Tianwen-1’s mission takes place a few weeks before the Chinese spacecraft lands on Mars, making China the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States. The Tianwen-1 spacecraft has been orbiting the red planet since February, collecting data. .. The Zhurong Rover is looking for evidence of life.
Another Chinese program aims to collect soil from asteroids, which is an important focus of Japan’s space program.
China is planning another mission to reclaim a sample of the Moon in 2024, stating that it wants to land people on the Moon and perhaps build a scientific foundation there. No timeline for such a project has been proposed. A very secret spaceplane is also reported to be under development.
How competitive are Chinese programs?
China’s program is steadily and cautiously proceeding with a carefully designed schedule, largely avoiding the failures seen in the efforts of the United States and Russia when trapped in fierce competition during the fierce early stages of space flight. did. One of the recent retreats occurred in 2017 when the Long March 5 rocket broke down during the development of the Long March 5B variant used to put the Tianhe module into orbit, but engineers have to fix the problem. Acted swiftly.
Critics say China’s space program has successfully reproduced the achievements of the United States and Russia without breaking many new frontiers. The growing technological capabilities of the country may end such a story in the next few years. The country may require greater private sector involvement to promote innovation and apply new technologies such as reusable rockets, as the United States did at SpaceX and Blue Origin.