May 26, 2024

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Cream of Techno

China launches crew to its space station

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China launches crew to its space station

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China on Tuesday launched a trio of taikonauts to its recently completed space station, another in a series of significant milestones for a country that has big ambitions in space and is rivaling the prowess of the United States.

The launch from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China lifted off at 10:08 a.m. Eastern time. On board the Long March 2F rocket were Fei Junlong, Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu, three of China’s most experienced astronauts.

China touted the launch as another sign of its technological prowess, providing a live stream to the mission, narrated in English and with scenes of the three taikonauts inside the capsule, and providing special access to the launch center to the New York Times and Japan’s Kyodo news agency.

China recently completed the construction of its Tiangong space station, located in low Earth orbit. The crew would spend six months there, overlapping with another crew of three for a few days. China has been assembling its space station for the past couple of years, giving its astronauts a foothold in space and a platform to perform science experiments.

The Chinese space station is being developed at a time when the International Space Station is aging, though NASA hopes to continue to use it through 2030. China has made significant progress in space in recent years, landing a spacecraft on the far side of the moon in 2019, as well as a rover on Mars last year, making it only the second country, after the U.S., to land a spacecraft successfully on the red planet.

China has has plans to send people to the moon, and create a permanent presence there that is similar to NASA’s plans. That has touched off concern in the U.S., which has sought to update rules that would govern behavior in space and on the surface of the moon and other celestial bodies.

Recently, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson chastised China after another of its rocket stages fell back uncontrollably to Earth. “It is critical that all spacefaring nations are responsible and transparent in their space activities and follow established best practices, especially, for the uncontrolled reentry of a large rocket body debris — debris that could very well result in major damage or loss of life,” he said in a statement.

Nelson has said China is a ““a very aggressive competitor” that has big ambitions in space and is challenging America’s leadership. “Watch the Chinese,” he warned last year.

His rhetoric has matched that of former Vice President Pence, who pushed NASA to return astronauts to the lunar surface on an expedited timeline. He warned that China was trying “to seize the lunar strategic high ground and become the world’s spacefaring nation.”

NASA has recently made significant progress in its lunar campaign, known as the Artemis program. Earlier this month, it launched its massive Space Launch System from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, hoisting the Orion spacecraft into orbit around the moon. The mission, which has no astronauts on board, is a test flight in preparation for flying astronauts to lunar orbit and eventually to the surface of the moon.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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