China has become much more active in recent years in terms of space technology as it prepares for some of the most remarkable future missions. Recently, China’s Tiangong space station has welcomed its third round of visitors.
On June 5, nearly six hours after launching off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert, China’s three-person Shenzhou 14 mission arrived at Tianhe, the core module of the under-construction Tiangong.
The three Shenzhou 14 crewmembers — commander Chen Dong, Liu Yang, and Cai Xuzhe — will spend around six months aboard the Tianhe (“Harmony of the Heavens”), which will launch to low Earth orbit in April 2021.
It is China’s latest step toward becoming a dominant space power in the decades to come. According to Chinese space officials, this 3-person crew will undertake a variety of scientific research and educational outreach activities while in orbit and execute many spacewalks and install new equipment within and outside Tianhe.
The astronauts will also be in charge of Tiangong’s other two modules, Wentian (“Quest for the Heavens”) and Mengtian (“Dreaming of the Heavens”), which are set to launch in July and October, respectively.
Wentian and Mengtian will attach to Tianhe on either side, making a T-shaped orbiting station about 20% the size of the International Space Station.
China also plans to complete the Xuntian space telescope by 2023. It will go fairly close to the Tiangong space station upon docking for repairs and refuelling.
China National Space Administration (CNSA) has bold aspirations. It hopes to replace the International Space Station (ISS) with its Tiangong space station. China’s objectives, however, do not end here at all.
Within several decades, it intends to collect samples from asteroids near Earth. Moreover, it hopes to land its first astronauts on the Moon by 2030 and send probes to Mars and Jupiter to gather data.