Three Chinese astronauts have started a six-month mission to work on the country’s new space station.
It is the latest step for China to become a space superpower in the coming decades.
What is the Tiangong Space Station?
Last year, China launched the first module of its Tiangong or “Heavenly Palace” space station into orbit.
It plans to add more modules, such as the Mengtian science lab, by the end of the year.
Next year it will launch a space telescope, called Xuntian. It will fly close to the space station and dock with it for maintenance and refueling.
Tiangong it will have its own power, propulsion, life support systems, and living quarters.
China is the third country in history to have put astronauts into space and built a space station, after the Soviet Union (now Russia) and the United States.
Beijing has high ambitions for Tiangong and hopes that replace the International Space Station (ISS), It will stop operating in 2031.
Chinese astronauts are excluded from the ISS because US law prohibits their space agency, NASA, from sharing their data with China.
China’s plans to reach the Moon and Mars
China’s ambitions do not end there.
In a few years he wants to sample asteroids near Earth.
By 2030, it aims have placed their first astronauts on the Moon and having sent probes to collect samples from Mars and Jupiter.
What are other countries doing?
As China expands its role in space, several other countries are also aiming to reach the Moon.
NASA plans to return to the satellite with astronauts from the US and other countries starting in 2025 and has already conducted tests for the launch of its new giant SLS rocket at the Kennedy Space Center.
Japan, South Korea, Russia, India and the United Arab Emirates are also working on their own lunar missions.
India has already launched its second major mission to the Moon and wants to have its own space station by 2030.
Meanwhile, the European Space Agency, which is working with NASA on missions to the Moon, is also planning a network of lunar satellites to make it easier for astronauts to communicate with Earth.
Who sets the rules of space?
The 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty states that no place in space can be claimed by any nation.
The 1979 UN Moon Agreement says that space must not be commercially exploited, but the US, China and Russia have refused to sign.
Now the US is promoting its Artemis Agreements, which spell out how nations can cooperatively exploit minerals from the Moon.
Russia and China will not sign the Agreements, saying the United States has no right to set the rules for space.
What is China’s history in space?
China put its first satellite into orbit in 1970.
The only other powers that had gone into space at that stage were the US, the Soviet Union, France and Japan.
In the last 10 years, China has launched more than 200 rockets.
It has already sent an unmanned mission to the Moon, called Chang’e 5, to collect and return rock samples.
He planted a Chinese flag on the lunar surface, which was deliberately larger than previous American flags.
With the launch of Shenzhou 14, China has now put 14 astronauts into spacecompared to 340 in the US and more than 130 in the Soviet Union.
But there have been setbacks. In 2021, part of a Chinese rocket went out of orbit and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean and two launches failed in 2020.
Who pays for China’s space program?
Chinese state media Xinhua claims that at least 300,000 people have worked on China’s space projects, nearly 18 times more than currently work for NASA.
The China National Space Administration was created in 2003 with an initial annual budget of 2 billion yuan ($300 million).
However, in 2016, China opened up its space industry to private companies, and they are now investing more than 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) a year, according to Chinese media.
Why does China want to go to space?
China is interested in developing its satellite technology for telecommunications, air traffic management, weather forecasting, navigation and more.
But many of its satellites also serve military purposes. They can help you spy on rival powers and guide long-range missiles.
Lucinda King, space project manager at the University of Portsmouth in the UK, says China isn’t just focusing on high-profile space missions: “They’re prolific in all aspects of space. They have the political motivation and the resources to fund their planned programs.”
China’s moon missions are motivated in part by opportunities to extract rare-earth metals from its surface, such as lithium.
However, Professor Sa’id Mosteshar, director of the Institute for Space Law and Policy at the University of London, says it would probably not be profitable for China to send repeated mining missions to the Moon.
The expert believes that China’s space program is driven more by the Asian nation’s desire to impress the rest of the world.
“It is a projection of power and a demonstration of technological advancement.”
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.