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World Will China's fast pace in the space race fuel U.S. ambitions?

11:40  19 june  2021
11:40  19 june  2021 Source:   cbsnews.com

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Hong Kong — China ' s ambitions for a space station of its own rocketed closer to reality on Thursday, as a Shenzhou-12 spacecraft roared to life and lifted its human payload into orbit. Just before dusk, Chinese state media proudly broadcast that the mission' s three astronauts had safely boarded the The three astronauts will spend the next three months — China ' s longest manned space mission to date — aboard the bus-sized cylinder. Tianhe is the first of four modules that will eventually become the Tiangong space station. Tiangong, which means Palace of Heaven, is scheduled for completion in

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Hong Kong — China's ambitions for a space station of its own rocketed closer to reality on Thursday, as a Shenzhou-12 spacecraft roared to life and lifted its human payload into orbit. Just before dusk, Chinese state media proudly broadcast that the mission's three astronauts had safely boarded the station's core module, known as Tianhe.

Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming in uniform: Chinese astronauts © Ng Han Guan / AP Chinese astronauts

The three astronauts will spend the next three months — China's longest manned space mission to date — aboard the bus-sized cylinder. Tianhe is the first of four modules that will eventually become the Tiangong space station. Tiangong, which means Palace of Heaven, is scheduled for completion in just 18 months, by the end of 2022.

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China launched the first astronauts to its space station on Thursday, taking a significant stride in what some U . S . officials have dubbed a new space race between the two countries. The morning rocket launch in northwest China sent a spacecraft carrying three astronauts into Earth’ s orbit, where it docked with the still-under-construction space The Chinese space station represents another milestone for the country, which didn’t launch an astronaut into space until 2003 — more than 40 years after the United States and the Soviet Union — but has since developed its space program at a torrid pace .

Hong Kong - China ' s ambition to construct its personal area station took off closer to reality on Thursdaywhen the Shenzhou 12 spacecraft roared to life and. Shortly earlier than nightfall, China ’ s state media proudly reported that three astronauts had safely boarded the station’ s most important module, often called Tianhe. The three astronauts will spend the following three months – China ’ s longest manned area mission thus far – aboard a bus-sized cylinder.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Chinese astronauts Tang Hongbo, Nie Haisheng and Liu Boming wave before the launch of the Long March-2F Y12 rocket, carrying the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft and the three astronauts, from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center for China's first manned mission to build its space station, near Jiuquan, Gansu province, China, June 17, 2021. / Credit: CARLOS GARCIA RAWLINS/REUTERS © Provided by CBS News Chinese astronauts Tang Hongbo, Nie Haisheng and Liu Boming wave before the launch of the Long March-2F Y12 rocket, carrying the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft and the three astronauts, from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center for China's first manned mission to build its space station, near Jiuquan, Gansu province, China, June 17, 2021. / Credit: CARLOS GARCIA RAWLINS/REUTERS

"I am excited. It's not every day that anybody puts up a new space station," said Quentin Parker, Director of Space Research at the University of Hong Kong. "They really are serious, I believe, in wanting to emerge as a very senior science power for the benefit of all mankind, not just China."

Will China's Tiangong replace ISS?

China expects to complete work on its space station just two years ahead of the scheduled decommissioning and de-orbiting of the International Space Station (ISS), in 2024.

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Will China ' s fast pace in the space race fuel U . S . ambitions ? China launches 3-man crew to its new space station. Spacewalkers install, but are unable to deploy, new roll-out solar array. While smaller than the sprawling International Space Station, built by the U . S ., Russia, the European Space Agency, Japan and Canada, the Chinese Space Station will focus on the same objectives — international research and technology development. The Tianhe core module is the centerpiece of the station, providing crew quarters, life support systems, communications, spacecraft controls, an airlock and

Will China ' s fast pace in the space race fuel U . S . ambitions ? China launches 3-man crew to its new space station. Spacewalkers install, but are unable to deploy, new roll-out solar array. More. Bill Harwood has been covering the U . S . space program full-time since 1984, first as Cape Canaveral bureau chief for United Press International and now as a consultant for CBS News. He covered 129 space shuttle missions, every interplanetary flight since Voyager 2' s flyby of Neptune and scores of commercial and military launches.

Launched in 1998, the ISS is now almost 23 years old. It cost $150 billion, and the U.S. paid $100 billion of that cost, with the space agencies of Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada footing the rest of the bill.

Michael S. Hopkins standing posing for the camera: Life aboard the International Space Station 06:25 © Provided by CBS News Life aboard the International Space Station 06:25

China has never been allowed to set foot on the ISS. In 2011, the U.S. Congress passed a bill effectively barring NASA from engaging with Chinese government agencies, including its space agency, on national security grounds.

The Chinese "did want to be part of the International Space Station," Parker told CBS News. "This is actually a result of the inability of China to be involved in the International Space Station because of politics — but what it's had the effect of doing, actually, is spurring China on. I think they've done it very impressively, frankly."

"I suspect that America will actually develop its own capabilities, and probably keep the space station going longer because it won't want to see China having the only game in town," he added. It's practically, technically, capable of going on for another decade, no problem. It's just extremely expensive."

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China ’ s modular space station would be similar in size to the 1973 Skylab, however it would be built in pieces like the 1986 Mir, although somewhat smaller. It would require 4 or 5 launches using Long March 5′ s to get all the parts into space . Tianwen-1 is "broadly comparable to Viking in its scope and ambition ," he added. In the wake of watching the United States and the Soviet Union lead the route during the Cold War, China has emptied billions of dollars into its military-drove space program.

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Building space power

China's space dreams seemingly know no bounds — on Earth or above it.

The country now boasts the world's largest radio telescope, located in the remote mountains of southern Guizhou Province, after the U.S.' Arecibo radio telescope spectacularly collapsed last December. CBS News was the only U.S. broadcaster to gain access to the massive dish that spans an area larger than five football fields.

a view of a mountain: China's © Provided by CBS News China's "Eye of Heaven" telescope now open 03:08

This past spring, China became only the second country in the world, after the U.S., to land a rover on Mars.

From now until the end of 2022, China will launch eight more missions to finish its space station, with three of them also set to be manned.

China's pride, America's prompt?

On Weibo, China's Twitter-like social media platform, the launch of the Shenzhou-12 was the most read topic on Thursday, with more than 1.1 billion references. Users posted comments of pride and love for their country.

"When foreign countries are still in the waves of combating COVID, life in China is normal. Meanwhile, we have accomplished such a magnificent space mission. It's so great to live in China. The Chinese government is badass. Long live the Great Motherland," posted one Weibo user.

EXPLAINER: The significance of China's new space station

  EXPLAINER: The significance of China's new space station JIUQUAN, China (AP) — Adding a crew to China's new orbiting space station is another major advance for the burgeoning space power. Here's a look at key developments: WHAT'S THE MISSION'S PURPOSE? The three-member crew is due to stay for three months in the station’s main living module, named Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony. They will be carrying out science experiments and maintenance, space walks and preparing the facility to receive two additional modules next year. While China concedes it arrived late at the space station game, it says its facility is cutting-edge.

a factory with smoke coming out of it: Watch: China launches crew to its own space s... 01:14 © Provided by CBS News Watch: China launches crew to its own space s... 01:14

"In the new round of outer space exploration, many experts predict China may overtake the United States and become the new leading country. Keep fighting, astronauts. Keep fighting for the Motherland!" said another.

Parker, at the University of Hong Kong, said the successful launch and docking by China on Thursday "may well be" just the kick the U.S. space program needs to push it into high gear.

"If you go back to the '50s and '60s, it was a rivalry, and competition between the Soviet Union and America that did launch a real space race to the moon," he noted.

Space race heats up 08:20 © Provided by CBS News Space race heats up 08:20

Just this week, Russia and China unveiled plans for a joint research base on the moon, directly competing with NASA's own Artemis moon program — yet more evidence that the space race never really stopped, it only reached higher, with more ambition — and some fierce new competition.

CBS News' Grace Qi in Beijing contributed to this report.

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