China successfully launched the first module of what it envisions as a permanent space station yesterday (September 29, 2011), according to the news agency Xinhua. The launch took place from a northwest desert area of China. The future Chinese space station is called Tiangong, which translates to Heavenly Palace. China says it plans to complete its future space station by 2020.
The launch could be the first of a series of historic steps for the newly space-faring nation.
The launched space module – Tiangong-1 – is the first Chinese spacecraft equipped with facilities that enable it to dock with future modules.
These modules will be assembled in low Earth orbit similar to the way in which the International Space Station (ISS) was built.
The Tiangong-1 module will orbit Earth for about a month before attempting China’s first-ever space dock with another spacecraft, the Shenzou-8. After a further series of unmanned spacecraft, Xinhua reports that a female astronaut might be sent up to attempt China’s first manual docking in space.
If all goes well over the coming decade, China’s first space station will complete by 2020.
Bottom Line: China launched the first module of a future space station on September 29, 2011 in a remote desert region of the country. The launch could be the first of a series of historic steps for the newly space-faring nation. China plans to name its space station Tiangong, which means Heavenly Palace.
In his years with EarthSky, Jorge Salazar conducted thousands of in-depth interviews with scientists. He knows a lot about as diverse as nanotechnology, ecosystem-based management, climate change, global health, international environmental treaties, astrophysics and cosmology, and environmental security. Jorge currently works as a Technical Writer/Editor for the Texas Advanced Computing Center, which designs and deploys powerful advanced computing technologies and innovative software solutions for scientific researchers.