Beijing (AFP) – A few minutes before the unmanned “Tianzhu 2” spacecraft takes off to the main part of China’s future space station, the mission has been postponed. The new China News Agency (Xinhua) reported on Wednesday, referring to the Chinese space program.
The rocket was ready for launch at the Wenchang Space Station in Hainan Island, southern China, when the cancellation came suddenly. The reason given is “technical problems”. The new start time will be determined at a later time.
“Tianzhou 2” was supposed to bring supplies and fuel to the base unit called “Tianhe” (Heavenly Harmony), which was launched on April 29th. The mission of the cargo ship is to prepare the flight of three astronauts in June, who will spend three months on board the space module. The “Tianhe” station is the starting point for the construction of the space station, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of next year.
The flight schedule is set at a specific time, which increases pressure on officials and technicians. After the three astronauts’ flight in June, another resupply flight will begin in September. Three more astronauts will follow in October. Next year, two laboratory units, each weighing a good 20 tons, will be brought into space, and will be installed in a T-shape on the base unit. Two cargo flights and two manned missions are also planned for 2022.
How far the start should have been postponed was as unclear as the severity of the technical problems. Before that, there was still good news: Just four days after landing on Mars, the Chinese Mars rover “Zhurong” sent images of the red planet back to Earth for the first time. State media reported that “all systems are operating normally.” One of the photos shows the rover after landing on the red planet, and the other shows the separation of “Zhurong” from the probe, according to the space program.
A missile also successfully launched from China’s Jiuquan Space Station in the Gobi Desert on Wednesday and put a maritime surveillance satellite into orbit. “Haiyang 2D”, together with two other satellites, is set to form a weather monitoring and early warning system, use of raw materials, climate protection and marine research, according to state media.
China landed on Mars for the first time on Saturday. The orbital “Tianwen 1” has also been successfully placed in orbit, making it possible to act as a relay station to contact the Earth. So the first pictures can be sent. After landing, the spacecraft initially recorded its circumference “as planned,” according to the Chinese space program.
So far, only the United States has managed to deploy reconnaissance vehicles on the surface of Mars. The Soviet Union landed in the 1970s, but immediately lost contact with the probe. Landing on the Red Planet is extremely difficult. So far, only about half of the attempts have succeeded.
The China mission is one of three flights to Mars that took off last summer. The United Arab Emirates and the United States have also sent space ships. The “persevering” US rover landed in February and began operating.
The Chinese landing craft has landed in the Utopia Planetia area. The six-wheeler “Zhurong”, named after the Chinese god of fire, will conduct investigations for at least three months. State media reported a “new chapter” in the Chinese space program.