China strengthens its presence in outer space – science – life

On Sunday, three Chinese astronauts arrived at the Tiajong Space Station, the “heavenly palace” that this country assembles at an altitude of more than 400 km, in orbit around the Earth. The crew, made up of Qin Dong, Kai Xuzhi, and Liu Yang (the second woman to travel to Taigong), traveled aboard the Shenzhou 14 (Divine Ark) and docked in the space station’s central unit, called Tianhe (Harmony). Celestial), in an automatic maneuver, about seven hours after takeoff from Jiuquan Base in the Gobi Desert.

These three astronauts – a term derived from the Mandarin word for space, taikong, as well as the Greek ending nauta for traveler – will be tasked with completing the construction of Tiangong in the next six months.

During this mission’s stay in space, the Mengtian and Wentian laboratory modules, the Tianzhou-5 cargo module and the Shenzhou-15 manned spacecraft are expected to be launched on Earth, all with Space China as the final. Destination.

In this way, it is planned that the three future crew members who will make up the Shenzhou-15 mission in Tiangong will coincide with those of the Shenzhou-14 crew for about a week, according to Chinese media. It would also mark a new record in the history of Chinese manned missions: six astronauts coexisted in the nascent station.

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Later, once the station’s Wentian Laboratory is docked, astronauts are expected to use that unit’s pressurized cabin for the first time to perform extravehicular activities on two or three occasions.

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The T-shaped terminal will weigh about 70 tons and is expected to operate for about 15 years. In 2024, it will likely become the only space station in the world if the International Space Station is retired that year.

With it up and running by the end of this year, Tiangong is supporting China’s ambitions to become a space power, along with the United States and Russia. The eastern country has already scored space successes, becoming the first country to land a rover on the far side of the moon, and last year the Zhurong rover successfully landed on Mars, a 240-kilogram solar-powered exploration rover, equipped with panoramic equipment, cameras and multispectral instruments. that travels today across the red planet.

(You can also read: There is already a history of the first images of the James Webb Space Telescope.)

Zhurong is a component of the Chinese Tianwen-1 mission currently on Mars. The scientific objectives of this project, which also includes an orbiter, are, among other things, to map the geological structure of the planet, investigate surface soil properties and water ice distribution, analyze the composition of surface materials and measure the ionosphere and characteristics of the Martian surface and climate and environment.

But China’s purposes in its conquest of space do not end there. This country is currently planning more missions to the Moon and Mars with the goal of challenging the United States’ dominance in space. Already at the beginning of this year, they agreed to the fourth phase of the lunar exploration program, which includes the construction of a scientific exploration base in the satellite’s south pole in the next decade, an initiative in which they will cooperate with Russia.

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(Also: Russia docks the Progress MS-20 cargo ship to the International Space Station.)

Several projects have been added to these space endeavors, ranging from launching more communications satellites, to an expected 2025 mission that will seek, as NASA is already doing, to find alternatives to divert potentially life-threatening asteroids on Earth, as well as the Tianwen 2 mission, which will focus to bring samples for study from a nearby asteroid, Kamo’oalewa, which is believed to be part of our moon.

* With information from agencies

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