09/20/2011, 00.00
CHINA

Beijing launches prototype for space station

Tiangong 1 will be in orbit by 1 October and dock with the unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft to test space-docking procedures, as well as conduct medical and technical experiments. Scientists have talked about the possibility of sending a man to the moon after 2020.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Beijing will launch a prototype module for a planned space lab next week. If everything goes well, the Tiangong 1, or “Heavenly Palace”, will blast off from the Gobi Desert Jiuquan launch site in a remote part of the north-western province of Gansu in late September, ahead of the 1 October anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

The eight-ton unmanned module will dock with the unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft, which will be sent into space after the Tiangong-1's launch.

China will thus have be in a position to develop its own space station, like the one built by Russia, the United States and other nations.

Besides the space-docking procedure experiment, scientists also plan to test the long-term unmanned operation and the temporarily-manned operation of a space station as well as carry out medical and technical experiments aboard the Tiangong-1.

China launched its second moon orbiter last year after it became only the third country to send its astronauts walking in space outside their orbiting craft in 2008.

Beijing plans an unmanned moon landing and deployment of a moon rover next year, and the retrieval of lunar soil and stone samples around 2017.

Scientists have also talked about the possibility of sending a man to the moon after 2020.

Since 2003, China has made great progress in space and says its aims are peaceful.
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