China’s Expanding Space Programme
In October 2003 China became the third nation to launch humans into space - Yang Liwei is now immortalised as the first Taikonauit. Just eight years later, on 29 September 2011, the Tiangong-1 space station was placed in orbit to be visited by Chinese astronauts over the next two years.
In 2010 China had 15 successful launches into space - the same number as the USA, and just as America’s Space Shuttle was being withdrawn from service! China now has about 70 civil and military satellites in space providing services such as TV, communications, weather forecasting, navigation and environmental monitoring. Its scientific programme is also expanding. Its second Moon orbiter, Chang’e-2, completed its six-month mission around the Moon in April 2011, and then travelled further out into deep space to arrive at the L-2 Lagrange point 1.5 million kms from Earth (where Earth and sun gravity cancel out). The first Chinese probe to Mars is due to be launched on a Russian rocket in November 2011.
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