2021 has been a fruitful year for the construction of China’s space station. The Tianhe core module was sent into orbit, and two batches of Chinese astronauts boarded the space station for a long-term stay.
During the year, China will first launch the Tianzhou-4 cargo spacecraft followed by the Shenzhou-14 crewed spaceship, with Tianzhou-4 set to deliver supplies for the Shenzhou-14 crew. During their stay, two lab modules, Wentian and Mengtian, will be sent successively into space.
Each lab module will first dock with the front docking port of the core module and will be transferred by the space station’s robotic arm to the side docking ports on each side of the core module.
A T-shape complex will then be formed, at which point the construction of the space station would be complete.
The Tianzhou-5 cargo spacecraft and the Shenzhou-15 crewed spaceship will then be launched to begin the in-orbit rotation of the crew at the space station.
Moreover, a telescope capsule will be sent into space to fly in the same orbit as the space station to provide observation data for astronomical and physical studies.
After completing the space station, China plans to carry out more extensive and in-depth international cooperation.
“The China Space Station is not only recognized as China’s national laboratory in space, but also recognized as a very important platform for international cooperation,” said Professor Yang Yuguang of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation.
Yang mentioned four levels of international cooperation.
“The first level is joint experiments, which is already in progress. Also, we can have visitors from other countries,” he said, adding that some European astronauts, like Samantha Cristoforetti, have already been trained in China.
“The third level will be visits to the spacecraft from other countries, such as either manned spaceships or cargo spaceships,” Yang told CGTN. “The highest level will be cooperation based on the module level, which means foreign modules launched from other countries can dock the station and become a permanent part of the station.”
NASA plans to retire the International Space Station in 2024. So, China’s space station may become the only space station in operation.
Through cooperation, China’s space station looks certain to become a scientific research platform shared by the world to the benefit of the mankind.
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