August 17, 2010

China Completes Unmanned Space Module

China has completed work on their first module for an unmanned space station, and currently plan to put the module into orbit sometime next year, according to Xinhua News Agency reports on Tuesday.

The 8.5 metric ton Tiangong-1 "is expected to carry out China's first space docking, with the Shenzhou-8 spacecraft, which will be launched in the second half of 2011," according to Xinhua reporters.

Citing an unidentified source from the Chinese military, the news agency also said that officials are currently "testing the module's electronic, mechanical and thermal properties" and training astronauts, including two females, in preparation for the docking procedure.

Both Xinhua and the Associated Press (AP) also note that two additional spacecraft--the Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10--are being prepped for 2012 launches, and are also set to dock with Tiangong-1. Furthermore, the AP reports that China is preparing for an unmanned moon landing in 2012 and a possible manned mission to the lunar surface in seven years time.

1993 marked the formation of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), and ten years later, they became just the third nation to successfully complete a manned flight into space. They joined Russia and the United States as the only countries to send a person into orbit.

They currently are not a partner in the International Space Station (ISS), but earlier this summer, the head of the European Space Agency (ESA) announced his support for their addition to the program.

"I am really willing to support the extension of the partnership of the ISS to China and South Korea," ESA Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain told Xinhua back in June. "Obviously, this should be a decision by all partners, not the decision by one partner."

According to a January Washington Times article, "Senior Chinese space officials have told their state media that China could be on the moon by 2022 at the outside"¦ In 2008, NASA scientists told the Bush White House that, with the technology currently available to the Chinese space program, Chinese cosmonauts could be on the moon by 2017."


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