Beijing postpones space station launch. Chinese rover sends first photos from Mars

The Tianzhou 2 cargo spacecraft had technical problems: it was to refuel the Tiangong space station, which is nearing completion.  First images of a Beijing robotic vehicle from Martian soil.  China is the first country after the US to explore the red planet.



Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - China yesterday postponed the launch of a cargo spaceship intended to supply its Tiangong space station.  Without providing a new date, the Space Agency justified the decision with the need to solve unspecified technical problems.

The Tianzhou 2 self-guided transport rocket was to take off from the launch station in Wenchang (Hainan) with the support of the Long March 7 carrier: the second of 11 missions to complete work on the Tiangong, after the launch of its first module in April.  It was carried by the Long March 5 vector, the destruction of which in contact with the Earth's atmosphere - and the related spreading of debris - has sparked protests from many governments.

Once completed, the Tiangong will be able to operate for 10 years and host three full time and three fixed term  astronauts.  It is the first permanent Chinese space station: Beijing planned its construction after being excluded from the International Space Station.

However, the setback of Tianzhou 2 is offset by the success of the Chinese mission to Mars.  The Zhurong space rover yesterday broadcast the first images it captured on the Red Planet.  The Beijing spacecraft landed on May 16, but China is not the first country to successfully send and operate a robot from Martian soil.  The US boasts several missions to Mars, the last of which was conducted by the Perseverance rover, which explores the planet with the support of the Ingenuity helicopter.