From Mao to Mars, a ‘Long Walk’ in China’s Space – International

China’s space adventure, initiated by Chairman Mao Zedong more than 60 years ago, reached a new stage on Saturday (16) with the arrival of three “astronauts” – Chinese astronauts – at their space station to begin the longest mission from Beijing. far.

China has already invested billions of dollars in its space program and is trying to catch up with Europe, the United States and Russia.

These are the main stages of the conquest of Chinese space:

– Mao’s call

In 1957, the Soviet Union put the first man-made satellite, Sputnik, into orbit. Then the founder of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong, called on his compatriots: “We will also make satellites!”

The first stage was completed in 1970. China launched its first satellite, Dongfanghong-1 (“The Red East-1”), named after a song in honor of Mao, whose tune will be broadcast for several days in space.

The rocket responsible for putting the satellite into orbit is called the “Long March,” a name reminiscent of the Red Army’s voyage that allowed Mao to assert himself as the leader of the Chinese Communist Party.

– first man

In 2003, the Asian giant sent the first Chinese into space, astronaut Yang Liwei, which orbits the Earth 14 times in a 21-hour period.

With this flight, China became the third country, after the Soviet Union and the United States, to send a human into space by its own means.

– units

China was deliberately excluded from the International Space Station (ISS) program, a cooperation involving Americans, Russians, Europeans, Japanese and Canadians, and decided to build its own station.

For this purpose, the Asian country first launched a small space unit, Tiangong-1 (“Heavenly Palace 1”), which was put into orbit in September 2011, to conduct astronaut training as well as medical experiments.

Tiangong-1 ceased operations in March 2016. The laboratory was considered an initial stage for the construction of a space station.

In 2016, China launched its second space module, Tiangong-2, where astronauts performed technical dockings.

– Chinese satellite and “GPS”

China’s space program suffers a setback in 2017 with the failure to launch Long March 5, an important piece of equipment that allows propulsion of the heavy loads needed for some missions.

This setback leads to a three-year delay of the Chang’e 5 mission. Performed only in 2020, the mission allows the Chinese to send samples from the lunar surface to Earth, something that has not happened in 40 years.

In January 2019, China achieved another success with an unprecedented achievement at the global level: the landing of a robot, “Jade Rabbit 2”, on the far side of the Moon.

In June 2020, the Asian country launched the last satellite to complete the BeiDou Navigation System, which rivals North America’s Global Positioning System.

– Mars … and Jupiter

In July 2020, China sent the “Tianwen-1” probe to Mars, carrying a remote-controlled wheeled robot called Zhurong, which will land on Mars in May 2021.

Scientists also mention the dream of sending people to Mars at a horizon not too far away. In addition, the head of the space agency, Xu Honglian, indicated the possibility of carrying out a mission to Jupiter until 2030.

– space station

Three astronauts on Saturday arrived at China’s first space station, whose assembly began in April, by placing it in orbit of its central module.

The mission is expected to last six months, the longest planned for a Chinese crew, with twice the time of the previous mission, which launched in April, which lasted 90 days.

To complete the assembly of the station, called Tiangong (Heavenly Palace, in Chinese), eleven missions will be required.

Once complete, the station will orbit between 400 and 450 kilometers from the Earth’s surface for ten years, with the ambition of maintaining a human presence in space for an extended period of time.

In principle, China does not plan to use its space station for international cooperation, but its officials have already said that they are open to cooperation with other countries.

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