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Chinese astronauts have set up a new laboratory on the space station

#Chinese #astronauts #set #laboratory #space #station

Astronauts boarded the Chinese space station’s new laboratory module for the first time on Monday, a key step toward completing the orbital outpost by the end of the year.

The station is one of the crown jewels of Beijing’s ambitious space program, which has landed robotic rovers on Mars and the Moon and made China only the third nation to put humans into orbit.

Upon completion, Tiangong – or “heavenly palace” – will be permanently manned by rotating teams of three astronauts who will conduct scientific experiments and help test new technologies.

Wentian, the second of Tiangong’s three main sections, docked with the core module of Tianhe Station on Monday after successfully launching from southern China a day earlier, state media reported.

A few hours after docking, the three astronauts – who have been living in the core module since June – opened the hatch and entered Wentian, according to footage provided by state broadcaster CCTV.

The crew in blue coveralls hovered around the brightly lit module before turning to face the camera and saluting.

Wentian will focus on life sciences and biotechnology research, including cell research and growth experiments on plants, fruit flies and zebrafish, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

The module will provide living space for three more astronauts and accommodate up to six people during crew changes, state media said.

The third and final module, another lab called Mengtian, is scheduled to launch in October.

Once completed, Tiangong is expected to remain in a low orbit of 400 to 450 kilometers (250 to 280 miles) above the Earth for at least 10 years.

Next year, China also plans to launch a space telescope with a field of view 350 times that of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

The telescope will be placed in the same orbit as Tiangong, allowing the station to dock with it for refueling and maintenance if necessary.

China has poured billions of dollars into space and exploration to build a program that reflects its position as a rising world power.

The program has seen rapid successes over the past two decades, including launching the first Chinese astronauts, making an historic first controlled landing on the far side of the moon, and bringing a rover to the surface of Mars.

And after several missions to test the technologies needed for a constantly manned outpost, Tiangong is scheduled to complete it this year.

The station is expected to have a mass of 90 tons when completed, about a quarter of the International Space Station – from which China has been banned by the United States.

The ISS – a collaboration between the United States, Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan – is scheduled to be retired after 2024, although NASA has said it could potentially remain operational beyond 2028.

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#Chinese #astronauts #set #laboratory #space #station

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