China’s space program is heating up, as on Monday it sent a pair of astronauts into the outer space towards an experimental space station. The idea is to train them for 30 days for the conditions of the full facility that is due to be built six years from now.
The Shenzhou 11 mission lift off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center located in the Gobi Desert in northern China at 7:30 a.m. ET. using a Long March-2F carrier rocket.
The mission is due to dock with space station,Tiangong 2, within two days. The astronauts have been sent to conduct various experiments and collect valuable data required to make the dream of the full space facility come true. They will also apply various space-related technologies and test out all the systems and parameters to prepare for the launch of the station’s main module in 2018.
China National Space Administration (CNSA) plans to send these two experimental attachments. After that the entire station will be designed and operational by 2022. CNSA hopes that their space station can remain operational for at least a decade.
Before this, another experimental space station called Tiangong 1 was launched in 2011, which was a remarkable success and finally came back in March after conducting its mission for over two years and docking with three visiting spacecrafts.
Chinese consider The Tiangong, or “Heavenly Palace,” to be a stepping stone towards their mission towards Mars which is projected to be completed by the end of the decade.
Space veteran Jing Haipeng, who is conducting his third mission, and 37-year-old Chen Dong are the two astronauts on this mission. In a press briefing, Jing expressed his delight and excitement over being selected for the program. He said, “It is any astronaut’s dream and pursuit to be able to perform many space missions.”
China’s space mission has been expanding and reaching new horizons since the first crewed mission in 2003. China is only the third country after Russia and the U.S. to embark on the treacherous yet exciting journey, and has already conducted staged a spacewalk and landed its “Yutu rover” on the moon. CNSA also plans to include a manned landing on the moon very soon.
Do you think this is part of the war of superiority and economics between USA and China? Is China becoming the new space superpower? Comment below!