Three Chinese astronauts have embarked on a six-month mission to assist with the construction of the country’s new space station.
It is China’s latest move toward becoming a prominent space power in the coming decades.
China launched the first module of its Tiangong, or “Heavenly Palace,” space station into orbit last year. By the end of the year, it intends to add more modules, such as the Mengtian scientific lab.
It will launch the Xuntian space telescope next year. This craft will approach the space station and dock with it for maintenance and refueling.
Tiangong will be self-sufficient in terms of power, propulsion, life support, and living quarters.
After the Soviet Union (now Russia) and the United States, China is only the third country in history to send humans into space and establish a space station.
Tiangong is a huge project for China, and it wants to replace the International Space Station (ISS), which will be decommissioned in 2031.
Because the United States’ space agency, Nasa, is prohibited from exchanging data with China, Chinese astronauts are barred from participating in the ISS.
China’s goals aren’t limited to that.
It plans to collect samples from asteroids near Earth in a few years.
It plans to land its first people on the Moon by 2030, as well as send probes to Mars and Jupiter to collect materials.
Several other countries are attempting to reach the Moon as China extends its position in space.
Nasa has already put out its new huge SLS rocket at the Kennedy Space Center, with ambitions to return to the Moon with humans from the United States and other countries starting in 2025.
Japan, South Korea, Russia, India, and the United Arab Emirates are also developing moon missions of their own.
India has already undertaken its second big lunar mission and aims to have its own space station operational by 2030.
Meanwhile, the European Space Agency, which is working on Moon missions alongside Nasa, is building a network of lunar satellites to make communication with Earth easier for astronauts.