Everything You Need To Know About China’s Ambitious Space Plans
From building its own space station, to capturing an asteroid and putting it in orbit around the Moon, China’s space programme is often depicted as ludicrous and unfeasible. But it would be foolish to overlook its potential.
China is quickly becoming one of the most ambitious and pioneering nations when it comes to exploring space.
“Our overall goal is that, by around 2030, China will be among the major space powers of the world,” Wu Yanhua, deputy chief of the National Space Administration, said in January. So what are its plans?
Dark side of the Moon
One of China’s nearest goals is the plan to land a rover on the dark side of the Moon in 2018.
China’s Chang’e 4 mission is the next in line after Chang’e 3, which saw the popular Jade Rabbit lunar rover named after the Chinese Moon goddess. The plan is to study the geology of the Moon’s far side.
As the Moon orbits Earth, it is tidally locked, meaning the same side always faces us.
The far side of the Moon is not always dark, it is illuminated when the side facing the Earth is in darkness; it is just called the dark side of the Moon because we never see it.Landing there would be a significant first.
China made headlines earlier this year when its plans to capture an asteroid were revealed, and somewhat mocked.
The idea of taking an asteroid and putting it in orbit around the Moon was reported by state media, but a detailed description of those specific plans is yet to be published.
However, a new study has revealed what China does plan to do in terms of asteroid chasing.
China’s latest proposal involves studying a chaotic asteroid.
A pair of Chinese researchers has published a paper in Advances in Space Research, outlining a plan to send a spacecraft to the asteroid 2010 TK7, which is on a bizarrely eccentric orbit around the Sun.
The mission will follow in the footsteps of NASA’s Rosetta spacecraft, which had a rendezvous with a comet. The plan is to launch the spacecraft in November 2021, with the manoeuvre happening in August 2025.
Not content with sending humans to asteroids, the Moon and Mars, China also plans on building its very own space station.
The first part of the Chinese large modular space station is expected to go into orbit around Earth in 2019 with the final sections in place by 2022.
The station will host three crew members, unlike previous efforts which could not support any crew.
The first Chinese space station, Tiangong-1 or ‘Heavenly Place’ launched in 2011, was only supposed to stay in orbit for two years.
Seven years later, and we are being told the satellite is out of control, and will crash into our planet in the next few months.
In 2011 it was decided China was not allowed to be part of the International Space Station (ISS) collaboration, when the US Congress passed a law saying it was concerned about national security.
The ISS is a joint mission between the US, Canada, Japan, Russia and Europe. Plans to collaborate are continuing, as Nasa and Russia announced a deal to work together building a new space station around the Moon.
But this doesn’t rule China out of the picture completely. “The US-Russian agreement is in principle only,” Logsdon sats. “Neither country has a funded program for such a station yet.
“If the Trump administration does fund such a US station, partnerships with many countries, not just Russia, will be sought. The issue then is whether Congress will allow Nasa to work with China.”
The future of China’s space exploration is diverse and exciting. With many ambitious plans, and a few failures under its belt, it remains to be seen whether China will meet its ambitious goals.
What is clear, however, is the country is not wasting any time trying to become the leader of the next space race.
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