Three Chinese astronauts embarked on a six-month mission to work on the country’s new space station.
This is China’s final step towards becoming a leading space power in the coming years.
WHAT IS TIANGONG SPACE STATION?
Last year, China placed the first module of the Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) space station into orbit. It plans to add other modules, such as the Mengtian lab, by the end of the year.
Next year, it will launch the space telescope called Xuntian. This telescope will fly close to the space station and dock with it for maintenance and refueling.
Tiangong will have its own fuel, propulsion, life support systems and life spans.
China became the third country to both send astronauts into space and build a space station, after the Soviet Union and the United States.
China has big ambitions for Tiangong; It expects to replace the International Space Station (ISS), which will be decommissioned in 2031.
Since the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is prohibited from sharing their data with China, according to US articles, Chinese astronauts cannot join the ISS.
CHINA’S MOON AND MARS PLANS
China’s plans do not stop there.
He wants to take samples from near-Earth asteroids in a few years.
It aims to send its first astronauts to the Moon by 2030, and to probe and collect samples with the spacecraft it will send to Mars and Jupiter.
WHAT ARE OTHER COUNTRIES DOING?
While China is advancing its role in space, a number of other countries are aiming to go to the Moon.
NASA plans to go to the Moon again with astronauts from the USA and other countries from 2025; for this purpose, it launched its new giant SLS rocket at Kennedy Space Center.
Japan, South Korea, Russia, India and the United Arab Emirates are also working on their own Moon missions.
India has already launched its second major Moon mission and wants to have its own space station by 2030.
In the middle, the European Space Agency (ESA), working with NASA on Moon missions, is also planning a network of Moon satellites to facilitate astronauts’ connection to Earth.
WHO SET THE RULES OF SPACE?
- According to the UN Outer Space Accord signed in 1967, no part of space can be owned by any country.
- The UN Moon Consensus of 1979 says that space should not be used for commercial purposes; but the USA, China and Russia did not sign the treaty
- The US highlights the Artemis Consensus, which explains how countries can co-operatively exploit the mines on the Moon
- Russia and China, on the other hand, refuse to sign the treaties, stating that the United States does not have the right to set rules for space.
CHINA’S PAST IN SPACE
China placed its first satellite into orbit in 1970, during the great upheavals caused by the Cultural Revolution.
Other powers that had gone into space by then were the United States, the Soviet Union, France and Japan.
In the last 10 years, China has launched more than 200 rockets.
He sent an unmanned spacecraft called Chang’e 5 to the Moon to collect and return rock samples. He planted a larger Chinese flag on the lunar surface than previous US flags.
China has so far sent 13 astronauts into space, compared to the US’s 340 and the Soviet Union’s (today’s Russia) more than 130 astronauts.
However, there were some setbacks. In 2021, a segment of a Chinese rocket deviated from orbit and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean; In 2020, two rocket launches failed.
WHO IS FINANCING CHINA’S SPACE PROGRAM?
According to Chinese state media Xinhua, at least 300,000 people work in China’s space projects. That number is almost 18 times the number of people currently working for NASA.
The China National Space Administration was established in 2003 with an annual budget of two billion yuan ($300 million).
In 2016, China opened up its space industry to private companies, and these companies are now investing more than 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) per year, according to Chinese media.
WHY IS CHINA GOING TO SPACE?
China telecommunications, air traffic administration, air claim, navigation, etc. willing to purposefully develop satellite technology.
however, more than one of the satellites at the same time for military purposes; they can help spy on opposing forces and direct long-range missiles.
China isn’t just focused on high-profile space missions, says Lucinda King, space project manager at the University of Portsmouth:
“They are productive in all aspects of space. They have the motivation and resources to finance the programs they plan.”
China’s Moon missions also aim to extract minor earth elements, such as lithium, from the Moon’s surface.
Prof Sa’id Mosteshar, Director of the Institute for Space Politics and Law at the University of London, says it will likely not be profitable for China to send repeated mining missions to the Moon.
According to Mosteshar, who stated that China’s space program is mostly due to its desire to influence the rest of the world, “This is a projection of power and an indicator of technological progress.”
News contributors: Jeremy Howell and Tim Bowler