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China unveils rival to International Space Station

April 27, 2011 Comments off


Less than a decade ago, it fired its first human being into orbit. Now, Beijing is working on a multi-capsule outpost in space. But what is the political message of the Tiangong ‘heavenly palace’?

Visitors to the Airshow China exhibition look at a model of the Tiangong-1 space station. Photograph: Ranwen/Imaginechina

China laid out plans for its future in space yesterday, unveiling details of an ambitious new space station to be built in orbit within a decade.

The project, which one NASA adviser describes as a “potent political symbol”, is the latest phase in China’s rapidly developing space programme. It is less than a decade since China put a human into orbit for the first time, and three years since its first spacewalk.

The space station will weigh around 60 tonnes and consist of a core module with two laboratory units for experiments, according to the state news agency, Xinhua.

Officials have asked the public to suggest names and symbols for the unit and for a cargo spacecraft that will serve it.

Professor Jiang Guohua, from the China Astronaut Research and Training Centre, said the facility would be designed to Read more…