The cargo mission is a historic step for China’s space program: the first crew change in space. It is said that six astronauts live in the “Sky Palace” at the same time.
China has successfully docked a cargo spacecraft at the new space station. The astronauts opened the Tianzhou 5 (Heavenly Ship) cargo hold on Sunday and prepared to load materials and supplies. The spacecraft had blasted off the day before with a Long March 7-Y6 rocket from Wenchang Spaceport on Hainan Island in southern China. The flight prepares for a historic step in China’s space program: the first crew change in space.
Three astronauts are expected to follow them by the end of the month and live with colleagues Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Kai Zhuzhi at the newly completed Tiangong (Sky Palace) station. The current crew is then scheduled to return to Earth in December. The new crew, scheduled to launch Shenzhou 15 (the Magic Ship), will remain on the space station for about six months.
The 13-ton spacecraft carries six tons of cargo. The flight comes just 12 days after the launch of the last unit, Mengtian (Heaven’s Dream), which has been successfully attached to the space station now in a T-shape. It is the 12th mission to build and resupply the space station. China wants to operate the “Paradise Palace” for about ten years.
The military is responsible for space travel
If the International Space Station ceases operations as planned in the next few years, China will be the only country to operate a permanent outpost in space. Through the “Sky Palace”, China is catching up with large space-faring nations such as the United States and Russia.
For its ambitious goals, the People’s Republic has invested billions in a military-run space program. China is already successfully operating a rover on Mars. The country took rocks from the moon and was the first country to land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon.
In addition to the space station, China has other ambitious goals in space. According to experts, a reusable spaceship can be used by 2025. Rock samples from the polar regions of the Moon will be brought to Earth within the next five years. Plans are also being made to establish a lunar research station with Russia.
Diagram of satellite and space telescope system
One of the plans is to land on a near-Earth asteroid. China also wants to bring samples from Mars to Earth, which could happen in 2028. A mission to explore Jupiter could follow in 2029. With Beidou, China has set up its own satellite navigation system.
Plans for the space station also include an “Exuntian” space telescope said to be similar to the US’s Hubble Telescope. It is scheduled to dock periodically with “Paradise Palace” for refueling and maintenance. It could be ready for launch in 2024. (dpa)
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