China’s Tiangong space station, the Heavenly Palace, is preparing to get even bigger: A Long March 5B rocket aboard the space station’s second unit, called Wentian, was launched from Wenchang Base, on Hainan Island in southern China.
Waiting for the new unit, the three astronauts on the space station, as the Chinese cosmonauts, who arrived at the Heavenly Palace at the beginning of June, are called, are two veterans: Qin Dong, Liu Yang, who in 2012 was the first Chinese woman to go to space, while Cai Xuzhe faces her first mission.
The launch is a new step toward expanding the Tiangong space station, with three astronauts on board, and in October the China Human Aeronautics Space Agency (Cmsa) plans to launch a second module called Mengtian. Both compact modules, intended for scientific research in microgravity, must be attached to the end of the Tianhe module, and once completed, the structure will have a T-shape.
The Wentian module aims to host biology experiments and also bring a small robotic arm to the Tiangong space station, complementing the already active larger arm, in order to allow for more precise operations. The second module will be devoted to materials science experiments and technology demonstrations.
The development of the Chinese space station is the first sign of major changes expected in space in the coming years. The International Space Station is currently the only fully operational manned, dedicated research facility, but it has its years to go and is expected to be retired by the end of this decade. So we contemplate the consequences, and as the United States opens up about future commercial initiatives, an internal NASA panel, cited by specialist sites, has expressed concerns that the US space agency may not be able to manage the timing of the transition from the International Space Station to the commercial one, With the risk of leaving a void period, its absence from low orbit, 400 kilometers from the surface of the Earth where space stations operate.
Added to the concerns about the future are those related to the Lunga Marcia 5B missile, whose first stage, in 2020, was at the center of the heated debate and concerns about its uncontrolled return to Earth. Then the impact occurred with the atmosphere over the Ivory Coast and the debris fell over a large area. Also in 2021, the same bowler was the protagonist of an out-of-control comeback and ended up in the Indian Ocean.
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