China is about to launch its first module of its latest space station into orbit, but with an ambitious timeline. So will China be able to build its newest space station in time?
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China is no stranger to building space stations and this latest attempt will actually be its third one. The country has launched two previous experimental space laboratories: Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2. Translating to “heavenly palace”, Tiangong-1 was the country’s first ever prototype space station that launched in 2011.
The space station was in orbit for a few years and even had multiple visits from Chinese astronauts known as taikonauts until CMSA lost contact with it after a technical issue in 2016. Eventually, Tiangong-1 had to come down, but no one knew exactly where it would land. Luckily for everyone, it re-entered over the Pacific Ocean in the spring of 2018.
Their second attempt, Tiangong-2 was more successful, as it far surpassed its planned two-year lifespan. It was then deliberately deorbited in 2019 after giving the scientists the data they needed. But now it’s time for a new space station and it begins with the launch of the first module, Tianhe-1. Translating to “joining of the heavens”, this core component is the most crucial part.
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