China has been investing a lot of effort and resources in space exploration. The Asian country has several missions that aim to explore the solar system in place and is currently building its own Space Station, Tiangong, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.
Using an 11-inch telescope, Boyang Liu captured an impressive shot of China’s new Tiangong space station on August 1.
Space Weather quoted Liu as saying: “Looking through the eyepiece, I almost felt like I was experiencing the scene in 3D.”
The images taken from the Earth show extensive solar arrays, robotic arms, science labs, and crew modules installed on the Space Station. The photograph also shows two spacecraft (Tianzhou 4 and Shenzhou 14) awaiting docking.
A Long March 5 B rocket, the same one that crashed uncontrollably last weekend in the Indian Ocean and part of the Malaysian and Borneo islands, carried the previous module of the station under construction into orbit.
As a result of its growth and height, this new orbital outpost now flies overhead in the night sky as bright as a first-magnitude star. For a flyby prediction of Tiangong, visit Heavens Above.
Even though the International Space Station (ISS) is much larger, China is catching up – plus, the ISS is expected to be decommissioned by the end of 2030.
In terms of orbital height, Tiangong orbits between 340 and 450 km above Earth’s surface, which is around the same as the 400km-altitude of the International Space Station.
With just one-fifth of the mass of the ISS, when it’s finished, it will be comparable in size to the smaller Mir space station, which is now decommissioned.
The Tiangong space station’s core module, Tianhe, was launched on April 29, 2021. Three sections make up this module: a habitational quarter where taikonauts (Chinese astronauts) will live, a non-habitable service section, and a docking hub where arriving spacecraft will dock,
The Wentian module was launched into space towards the space station on July 24, 2022.
It will also serve as a backup to the core Tianhe module for controlling and managing the space station. Future spacewalks will exit through its airlock, and its mechanical arm will assist in spacecraft relocation and docking.
In Tiangong, taikonauts spend six months in space, but there is only space for three, unlike in the International Space Station. Upon completion of the space station later in 2022, the first crew rotation will take place, which means six taikonauts will be aboard for a short period – three just arrived and three about to return home.
It has already been suggested that Tiangong’s three modules be expanded to allow more experiments and better living conditions for taikonauts in the future. As a result, there are expected to be six different modules on the space station in the future (still fewer than the 17 on the ISS). The space station is expected to remain operational for at least ten years.
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