Beijing China: China is planning to launch a rocket carrying supplies for its new space station only days after landing a rover on Mars, demonstrating its commitment to extraterrestrial exploration.
With ambitious missions in Earth orbit and the landing of uncrewed vessels on the Moon and Mars, Beijing has put billions into its space program in a bid to catch up to pioneers Russia and the United States.
However, the US and many experts chastised China for a possibly deadly breach of space etiquette earlier this month when it allowed a large rocket section free-fall to Earth after launching the core module of China’s space station.
The Tianzhou-2 cargo vehicle will launch on a 14-tonne Long March 7 rocket in the future mission, carrying supplies such as food and space suits to the core module.
The space station, dubbed Tiangong after the Chinese word for “heavenly palace,” will take roughly ten missions to complete in orbit.
Officials have not revealed a definite launch date for the new mission, but it will be launched from Hainan, China’s southernmost island.
According to the Japanese Coast Guard website, China’s maritime authorities have issued a navigation advisory indicating a “rocket launching” between 1700 and 1800 GMT on Wednesday (between 1 and 2 a.m. in China).
The building of the space station has reached a “critical stage,” according to Hao Chun, director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office.
It is projected to spend up to 15 years in low Earth orbit.
With the International Space Station possibly retiring in 2028, China’s space station might become the only human presence in orbit.
Although Chinese officials have stated that foreign collaboration on their space station is welcome, the degree of that engagement is still unknown.
The European Space Agency, on the other hand, has already dispatched astronauts to China to prepare for work inside Tiangong whenever it is completed.
The new supply mission will take place just days after China successfully landed its Zhurong rover on Mars, making it the third country to do so.
The rover will begin investigating Martian geology soon, after spending three months photographing and collecting data from a wide northern lava plain.
COVER IMAGE COURTESY OF THE DOG WALK VIA TWITTER