Beijing wants to play a league with the United States in space. Accordingly, the construction of its first space station, Tiangong, is being pushed very quickly.
China has successfully launched another team of astronauts to complete its space station under construction. The trio began their mission aboard the Shenzhou 14 spacecraft from the Jiuquan space base in northwest China on Sunday.
A Long March 2F rocket took them to space, as shown on a live broadcast by Chinese state television. After the ship reached orbit, the Chinese space agency said the launch was a “complete success”. The astronauts were due to arrive at the station about six hours after launch. The Shenzhou 14 should then dock with the Tianhe base unit in an automated maneuver.
Astronauts Qin Dong, Liu Yang and Kai Xuzhi are already the third crew, who will now spend several months in space and carry out work on the station. In early May, a cargo flight brought additional equipment and supplies into space in preparation for the mission.
During the astronauts’ stay, two more modules will be sent into space and attached in July and October. Another manned flight is scheduled, possibly in December. Then six astronauts must temporarily remain on the space station. The T-shaped plant, which will weigh 66 tons, will be completed and regular start-up.
The space station called “Tiangong” (Sky Palace) supports China’s ambitions to become a space power and catch up with major space-faring nations such as the United States and Russia. The People’s Republic of China has invested billions in its space program and has already had some successes. China was the first country to land a spacecraft and exploration vehicle on the dark side of the moon. Last year, the rover “Zhurong” landed on the surface of Mars, with the aim of exploring the planet’s surface.
China has been denied entry to the International Space Station, especially under pressure from the United States, which has reservations about the opacity of China’s space program and its close ties to the military.
With their ambitions high in space, the state leadership in Beijing is concerned with the national standing, but also with the world’s leading technological role they would like to challenge the USA. Other missions to the Moon and Mars are scheduled in the medium term. (dpa)
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