China launched the base unit of the Heavenly Harmony Space Station

China launched the base unit of the Heavenly Harmony Space Station

The Tianhe module will act as the management and control hub of the space station Tiangong, meaning Heavenly Palace, with a node that could dock with up to three spacecraft at a time for short stays, or two for long, Bai Linhou, deputy chief designer of the space station at the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) said, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

But its role as the sole venue for a continuous human presence in space, scientific research and a testing ground for future space exploration is coming to a close, potentially signaling an end to an unparalleled era of worldwide cooperation in space.

China on Thursday launched the first module of its new space station, state television showed, a milestone in Beijing's ambitious plan to place a permanent human presence in space.

The Tianhe core module, which houses life support equipment and a living space for astronauts, was launched from Wenchang in China's tropical Hainan province on a Long-March 5B rocket.

The Long March-5B rocket will be tasked with transporting the two lab modules, the Long March-7 rocket will launch the cargo spacecraft and the Long March-2F will launch the manned spacecraft into space.

If the ISS were to cease operating in the coming years - and secure its operation until 2024 - China would likely be the only country with a space station.

After years of successful rocket and commercial satellite launches, China put its first astronaut into space in October 2003, becoming only the third country to independently do so after the former Soviet Union and the United States. Its successor, Tiangong-2, was successfully thrown from space in 2018.

The China National Space Administration has already invited scientists around the world to participate in the mission and four payloads developed by scientists from France, Italy, Sweden, Russia and China have been preliminarily selected.

China aims to become a major space power by 2030.

China launches Tianhe space station core module into orbit

Russian Federation is deepening ties with China in space as tensions with Washington rise. The astronauts spent 30 days in space conducting experiments.

China's program has advanced in a steady, cautious manner, largely avoiding the failures seen in the USA and Russian efforts with their astronaut programs, moon and Mars missions when they were locked in intense competition during the heady early days of space flight.

China has launched two test units in the past decade in preparation for a permanent installation.

The Chinese space program sent a probe into Mars' orbit earlier this year.

Following in the footsteps of the United States and Russia, China is striving to build a space station circling the planet. The uncrewed Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft is now expected to rendezvous and dock with Tianhe in mid-late May, ahead of the visit of three astronauts aboard Shenzhou-12 in June.

The craft was also used for medical experiments and, most importantly, tests meant to prepare for the construction of a space station. Its first module, Tiangong-1, scorched up after perilous orbit. In December, the Chang'e 5 probe brought moon rocks back to Earth for the first time since U.S. missions in the 1970s.

China hopes to ultimately land the rover in May in Utopia, a massive impact basin on Mars.

But lunar work was dealt a setback in 2017 when the Long March-5 Y2, a powerful heavy-lift rocket, failed to launch on a mission to send communication satellites into orbit.

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