China launches key module for its permanent space station

#GS3 #SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 

Context

● China launched the main module of its first permanent space station that will host astronauts for the long term, in the latest success for a program that has realized a number of its growing ambitions in recent years.

The “Heavenly Harmony” module

  •  The Tianhe, or the “Heavenly Harmony” module, blasted into space atop a Long March 5B rocket from the Wenchang Launch Center on the southern island province of Hainan.
  •  The launch kicks off the first of 11 missions necessary to complete, supply and crew the station by the end of next year.
  • Soon after, it separated from the rocket, which will orbit for about a week before falling to Earth, and minutes after that, opened its solar arrays to provide a steady energy source.
  •  China’s space program also recently brought back the first new lunar samples in more than 40 years and it also expects to land a probe and rover on the surface of Mars later next month.

Recent development 

  • China launched an unmanned module on Thursday containing what will become living quarters for three crew on a permanent space station that it plans to complete by the end of 2022, state media reported.
  • The module, named "Tianhe," or "Harmony of the Heavens," was launched on the Long March 5B, China's largest carrier rocket, at 11:23 a.m. local time (0323 GMT) from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre on the southern island of Hainan.
  • Minutes after the launch, the fairing opened to expose the Tianhe atop the core stage of the rocket, with the characters for "China Manned Space" emblazoned on its exterior. Soon after, it separated from the rocket, which will orbit for about a week before falling to Earth, and minutes after that, opened its solar arrays to provide a steady energy source.
  • Tianhe is one of three main components of what would be China's first self-developed space station, rivalling the only other station in service — the International Space Station (ISS).
  • The ISS is backed by the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada. China was barred from participating by the United States.
  • "(Tianhe) is an important pilot project in the building of a powerful nation in both technology and in space," state media quoted President Xi Jinping as saying in a congratulatory speech.
  • Tianhe forms the main living quarters for three crew members in the Chinese space station, which will have a lifespan of at least 10 years.

10 more modules, 4 manned spacecraft

  • The Tianhe launch was the first of 11 missions needed to complete the space station, which will orbit Earth at an altitude of 340 to 450 kilometers.
  • In the later missions, China will launch the two other core modules, four manned spacecraft and four cargo spacecraft.
  • Work on the space station program began a decade ago with the launch of a space lab Tiangong-1 in 2011, and later, Tiangong-2 in 2016.
  • Both helped China test the program's space rendezvous and docking capabilities.
  • China aims to become a major space power by 2030. It has ramped up its space program with visits to the moon, the launch of an uncrewed probe to Mars and the construction of its own space station.
  • In contrast, the fate of the aging ISS — in orbit for more than two decades — remains uncertain.
  • The project is set to expire in 2024, barring funding from its partners. Russia said this month that it would quit the project from 2025.
  • Russia is deepening ties with China in space as tensions with Washington rise.
  • Moscow has slammed the U.S.-led Artemis moon exploration program and instead chosen to join Beijing in setting up a lunar research outpost in the coming years.

BIASA BASICS 

India’s Own Space Station

  • India is planning to launch its own space station by 2030, joining the league of US, Russia, and China to an elite space club.
  • A space station is a habitable spacecraft capable of supporting human crewmembers and designed to remain in space.
  • As of now, the International Space Station (ISS) is the only fully functioning space station and largest human-made body in low Earth orbit.

Significance

  •  The space station is essential for collecting meaningful scientific data, especially for biological experiments.
  •  Provide platforms for a greater number and length of scientific studies than available on other space vehicles. ( as Gaganyaan will take humans and experiments in microgravity for few days only).
  •  Each crew member stays aboard the station for weeks or months, but rarely more than a year.
  •  Space stations are used to study the effects of long-term space flight on the human body.

Refer to this article on RUSSIA'S SPACE STATION 

 

SOURCE: THE HINDU 

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