China successfully launches final part of its three-module space station

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China launches Mengtian: China on November 1, 2022, launched the third and final module to complete its permanent space station. With this, the country accomplished a more than decade-long effort to maintain a constant crewed presence in the orbit, as its competition with the United States grows increasingly fierce.

Mengtian by China was blasted into space on the afternoon of November 1 from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in the Southern Island Province of Hainan. To witness the lift-off, a large crowd of photographers, space enthusiasts gathered on the adjoining beach.

China launches Mengtian: Key Details

1. Mengtian or Celestial Dream joins Wentian as the second laboratory module for the station which is collectively known as ‘Tiangong’ or ‘Celestial Palace’.

2. Both are connected to the Tianhe core module where the crew lives and works.

3. Like its predecessors, Mengtian has launched abroad a Long-March -5B Y4 carrier rocket, a member of China’s most powerful family of launch vehicles.

4. Mengtian was due to spend 13 hours in flight before reaching Tiangong, which is populated by a crew of two male and one female astronaut.

Mengtian: All you need to know

1. Mengtian weighs in at about 20 tons with a length of 17.9 meters and a diameter of 4.2 meters.

2. It will provide space for science experiments with zero gravity, an airlock for exposure to the vacuum of space, and a small robotic arm to support the extravehicular payloads.

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3. The already orbiting 23-ton Wentian laboratory is designed for science and biology experiments and is heavier than any other single-module spacecraft currently in space.

China’s crewed Space Program

China’s crewed space program officially turned three decades old in 2022. However, it truly got underway in 2003, when China became the only third country after the United States and Russia to put a human into space using its own resources.

China’s crewed space program is run by the ruling Communist Party’s Military wing, the People’s Liberation Army, and has proceeded methodically and almost entirely without any outside support. The US had excluded China from the International Space Station because of its program’s military ties.

China’s Permanent Space Station

China’s permanent space station will weigh about 66 tons- a fraction of the size of the International space station, which launched its first module in 1998 and weighs around 465 tons.

With a lifespan of 10-15 years, Tiangong could one day find itself the only space station still running if the ISS adheres to its 30-year operation plan.

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