China said Thursday that a cohort of astronauts is training for four manned missions this year as the country works to complete its first permanent space station in orbit. The central module of the station, named Tianhe, could be launched as early as next month, according to China’s National Space Administration and foreign observers. The massive Long March-5B Y2 rocket and its payload were installed last month at the Wenchang spacecraft launch site in the tropical province of Hainan for assembly and testing. This launch would be the first of 11 missions in the next two years to complete construction of the station by the end of 2022. Two more modules will be launched later, along with four Tianzhou cargo supply missions and the four manned missions. Shenzhou.
CNSA listed 12 astronauts training for manned missions, including veterans from previous Shenzhou flights, newcomers and women, although it was unclear if there were others selected. According to reports, up to three crew members will live at the same time in the central module, which has docking ports to allow the connection of scientific modules launched later. China has already launched two smaller experimental space stations to test encounter, docking and life support measures on board. Once completed, the permanent space station will allow stays of up to six months, similar to the International Space Station.
According to reports, the Chinese station is destined to be used for 15 years and may last the ISS, which is about to end its functional life. The ISS is backed by the United States, Russia, Japan, Europe, Canada, and others, but China did not participate, in part because of U.S. insistence that it was wary of sharing technology with the secret Chinese-linked military program. China’s space program, however, has made steady progress since it put an astronaut into orbit around Earth in 2003.
A rover went to the end of the moon little explored in 2019. Another spacecraft, the Tianwen-1, is in a parking orbit around Mars in anticipation of landing a rover on the surface in the coming months . If successful, China would become the second country after the US to put a spacecraft on Mars. China is also working on a reusable spacecraft and is planning a manned lunar mission and a possible permanent research base on the Moon, although no dates have been proposed.
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