China sending the first astronauts to its new, experimental space station

The International Space Station (ISS) might be showing its age, but China is launching a space base of its own — and the first astronauts are on their way now.

China’s space agency has sent two astronauts (or taikonauts, as they’re called) on a 30-day mission to the brand-new Tiangong-2 space station. The team will spend a few weeks testing out the critical systems and life support in the system in anticipation of the full start of operations in 2022. The station module was launched in September, and it’s only the first step in China’s plans for a large station in low-Earth orbit.

The 30-day journey marks the Chinese space agency’s longest crewed mission to date. As The Guardian notes, China was left out of the International Space Station project due to the militarized approach the country has taken to space exploration in the past. But the nation is trying to attract international partners for the Tiangong-2 initiative. The country hopes to operate the station for at least a decade, and once it's fully operational, it could be the most high-tech rig up there.

China’s space program has come a long way the past couple decades, with a robotic lander on the moon and the nation’s first successful spacewalk. China is also eyeing a potential manned mission to the moon in the coming years. Give it a few more years, but China is well on its way to being a major player.


(Via The Guardian)

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