China’s Heavenly Palace blasts off

China successfully launched the first module of its future permanent space station – Tiangong, or Heavenly Palace – on September 29, 2011.

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.

Unmanned Tiangong-1 space module to make historic dock with Shenzhou-8 in October 2011.

Unmanned Tiangong-1 space module to make historic dock with Shenzhou-8 in October 2011.

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.

Historic blast off of first module of Tiangong, which translates as Heavenly Palace, China’s future space station. The Chinese envision completion of the space station by 2020. (Xinhua/Wang Jianmin)

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.

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