Tuesday, March 21, 2023
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While Artemis does not take off, China advances on its space adventure towards the Moon


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The weekend was not a restful one at the Jiuquan base in northeast China. While NASA was trying to repair a fuel leak that prevented the launch of its SLS rocket in the United States, the Chinese were putting a new remote sensing satellite into orbit. At the same time, on the island of Hainan, in the southeast of the country, teams were working on equipment that will launch, next month, the last module of the Chinese space station.

Beijing does not hide its ambitions in the space race from anyone. Since April 2021, Tianhe, the first module of a Chinese space station, has been in orbit. In July of this year, the second of three space station modules under construction across the country was launched. Named Tiangong (Celestial Palace, in Chinese), but also known by its acronym CSS (“Chinese Space Station”, in English), it should be fully operational by the end of the year and the project’s lifespan should be from 10 to 10 15 years.

Barred on the International Space Station (ISS)

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The Asian giant has been investing billions of euros in its space program for several decades. China sent its first astronaut into space in 2003 and the design of its own station came about due to the United States’ refusal to allow the country to participate in the International Space Station (ISS).

And the Moon is also part of Beijing’s projects, even if the goals are less clear and the timetable doesn’t seem very clear. According to the first information, a mission to the natural satellite would start as early as 2024, after the construction of the Celeste Palace. But according to the latest news in the local press, a mission to the natural satellite is expected to be completed “by 2030”.

Chinese robots have already taken samples taken from lunar craters

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The first Chinese projects targeting the Moon began in 2013 with the Cheng’e mission. It was in that year that a motorized robot called Yutu (“jade rabbits” in Mandarin) was sent to the satellite. In 2014, a “made in” China minirover circled the Moon, and in 2019, another vehicle landed on its dark side. In 2020 Beijing went further and a robot brought back samples taken from lunar craters to Earth.

According to the Chinese space agency, the next stage is destined for the south pole of the Moon, with missions until 2026, which aim to prepare the ground for the first manned flights, in addition to a project to build, in partnership with Russia, a station lunar space.

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