- Wanuan Song and Jana Toushinsky
- BBC News
Three Chinese astronauts have embarked on a six-month mission to work on the country’s new space station.
This is China’s latest move to become a space superpower in the next few decades.
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What is Tiangong Space Station?
Last year, China launched the first module of its Tiangong or “heavenly palace” space station into orbit.
It plans to add more modules, such as the Mentian Science Lab, by the end of the year.
Next year it will launch a space telescope called Xuntian. It will fly near the space station and dock there for maintenance and refueling.
Tiangang will have its own power, operation, survival and living quarters system.
China is the third country in history after the Soviet Union (now Russia) and the United States to send astronauts into space and build a space station.
Beijing has high ambitions for Tiangang and hopes it will replace the International Space Station (ISS), which is due to close operations in 2031.
Chinese astronauts have been banned from ISS because US law prohibits its space agency NASA from sharing its data with China.
China plans to reach the moon and Mars
China’s ambitions do not stop there.
In a few years, he would like to take asteroid samples closer to Earth.
By 2030, it wants to place its first astronauts on the moon and send probes to collect samples from Mars and Jupiter.
What are other countries doing?
As China expands its role in space, so do a few other countries.
NASA plans to return to the satellite by 2025 with astronauts from the United States and other countries, and has already tested its huge new SLS rocket at the Kennedy Space Center.
Japan, South Korea, Russia, India and the United Arab Emirates are also working on their own lunar missions.
India has already launched its second major mission to the moon and aims to have its own space station by 2030.
Meanwhile, the European Space Agency, which is working with NASA on lunar missions, is planning a network of lunar satellites to facilitate astronauts’ communication with the Earth.
Who sets the rules for space?
The 1967 United Nations Outer Space Treaty states that no nation can claim any part of space.
The 1979 United Nations Moon Pact states that space should not be used for commercial purposes, but the United States, China and Russia have refused to sign it.
Today, the United States is promoting its Artemis Accords, which outlines how countries can extract minerals from the moon.
Russia and China will not sign the agreement and will claim that the United States has no right to set space rules.
What is the history of China in space?
China launched its first satellite into orbit in 1970.
Other powers currently in space are the United States, the Soviet Union, France, and Japan.
China has launched more than 200 rockets in the last ten years.
He has already sent an unmanned mission to the moon called Chang’e5 to collect and retrieve rock samples.
He planted a Chinese flag on the lunar surface, which was deliberately larger than previous American flags.
With the launch of Shenzhou 14, China has now sent 14 astronauts into space, with 340 for the United States and more than 130 for the Soviet Union.
But disaster struck. In 2021, a portion of a Chinese rocket left orbit and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, and in 2020 two launches failed.
Who pays for the Chinese space program?
China’s state-run Xinhua news agency says at least 300,000 people have worked on China’s space project, about 18 times more than NASA is currently working on.
The China National Space Administration was established in 2003 with an initial annual budget of 2 billion yuan (over 184 billion FCFA).
However, in 2016, China opened up its aerospace industry to private companies, and they now invest more than 10 billion yuan (920 billion FCFA) per year, according to Chinese media.
Why does China want to go into space?
China wants to build its own satellite technology for telecommunications, air traffic management, weather forecasting, navigation and more.
However, many of its satellites also serve military purposes. They can help him spy on rival forces and operate long-range missiles.
Lucinda King, head of the space project at the University of Portsmouth in the UK, believes that China is not just focused on high-profile space missions: “It is powerful in all aspects of space.
They have the resources to fund politically motivated and planned programs.
China’s missions to the moon are driven by the possibility of extracting rare-earth metals such as lithium from its surface.
However, Professor Saeed Mosteshar, director of the Institute of Space Law and Policy at the University of London, thinks that repeatedly sending mining missions to the moon would probably not be profitable for China.
He believes that China’s space program is driven by the Asian state’s desire to influence the rest of the world.
“It’s a projection of energy and a demonstration of technological progress.
Additional information from Jeremy Howell and Tim Bowler.