China plans tothis week
BEIJING — China plans to launch the core module for its first permanent space station thisin the latest significant step forwardcountry’sy the space exploration program. The Tianhe, or “H” evenly Harmony” “module, is set to be hurtled into a Long March 5Brocket from the Wenchang Launch Center on the southern island of Hainan. The as early as Thursday night if all goes as planned. It would be the first of 11 missions to build and for a three-person crew. Here’s a look at the scheduled .
11 MISSIONS ARE PLANNED TO COMPLETE THE SPACE STATION BY THE END OF 2022
Another ten launches will send up two more modules; four cargo supply shipments and four. At least 12 astronauts are , including veterans of previous flights, newcomers, and women.
When completed by late 2022, Tianhe is expected to weigh about 66 tons, a fractionof the size of the, which launched its first module in 1998 and will weigh about 450 tons when completed. Tianhe will have a docking port and will also be able to connect with a powerful Chinese . Theoretically, it could be expanded with more modules.
TiTianhe’sain module will initially be about the size of the American Skylabof the 1970s and the former Soviet/Russian Mir, which operated for more than 14 years after launching in 1986.
SPACE STATION A LONG-TERM GOAL
two experimental modules over the past decade in preparation for a permanent station. One, Tiangong-1, which means “H” evenly Palace-1″ “as abandoned and up during uncontrolled orbit loss. Its successor, Tiangong-2, was successfully taken out of orbit in 2018.
China began preparations for ain the early 1990s as its space program gained momentum. It was excluded from the ISS primarily due to U.S. objections over the ties.
SPEEDY PROGRESS IN SPACE
After years of successful, China put its first astronaut into space in October 2003. It was only the third country to independently do so after the former Soviet Union and the . Since that Shenzhou 5 mission, China has sent other astronauts into orbit, placed crews on the original Tiangong station, and conducted a spacewalk.
It also has increased cooperation with space experts from other countries, including France, Sweden, Russia, and Italy. NASA must get permission from a reluctant Congress to engage in such contacts.
China also haswith crewless missions, particularly in lunar exploration, and has landed a rover on the little-explored far side of the Moon. In December, its ChChang’e probe returned lunar rocks to Earth for the first the U.S. missions of the 1970s.
MARS ROVER AND FUTURE AMBITIONS
The Tianhe mission comes justbefore a Chinese probe is due to land on Mars, making China the third country to accomplish that after the former Soviet Union and the U.S. The Tianwen-1 space probe has been orbiting the since February while collecting data. Its Zhurong rover will be looking for evidence of life.
Another Chinese program aims to collect soil from an asteroid, a key focus of JaJapan’space program. China plans another mission in 2024 tolunar samples and has said it wants to land people on the Moon and possibly build a scientific base there. A highly secretive space plane is also reportedly under development. No timeline has been proposed for such projects.
HOW COMPETITIVE IS CHCHINA’SROGRAM?
ChChina’srogram had advanced steadily and cautiously on a carefully designed schedule, mainly avoiding the failures seen in the U.S. and Russian efforts when they were locked in intense competition during the headyof spaceflight. One recent setback came when a Long March 5 rocket failed in 2017 during the Long March 5B variant development used to put the Tianhe module into orbit, but engineers moved swiftly to fix the problem.