Sunday, November 13, 2011

China A Step Closer To Building Its Heavenly Palace

Last week China became the third nation after Russia and the United States to successfully master space docking when their unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft that was launched on November 1 docked with the already orbiting Tiangong-1 space station module 211 miles above the planet on November 3.  

"China is now equipped with the basic technology and capacity required for the construction of a space station," chief designer Zhou Jianping was quoted as saying by the Xinhua news agency."This will make it possible for China to carry out space exploration on a larger scale," he added.

The Chinese have been conducting tests over a twelve day period since then with the joint assembly.  To make sure the docking collar works and the previous docking wasn't a fluke they will separate the remote controlled Shenzhou-8 from the module and attempt to dock it with the Tiangong-1 module again before the Shenzhou-8 craft is scheduled to return to Earth on November 17.    

The Tiangong-1 module was launched into orbit from their Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center back on September 29, and the Chinese plan to send two more Shenzhou missions to dock with it next year.  One of those missions will be a manned one with taikonauts scheduled to stay on board for a month.

They plan to launch two more test modules before launching the actual planned 60 ton station into space in three sections between 2020 and 2022

But the ambitious Chinese space program has taken another step toward catching up with the Russians and the USA in terms of becoming a spacefaring nation and if the United States wants to keep its hard won leading position in space technology, we need to step up our game now.

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