The launch of the Long March-2F rocket carrying Shenzhou-9 into space
On Monday, Chinese spaceship Shenzhou-9 docked with Tiangong-1, the first time that China connected a manned craft with an orbiting module. Liu Yang, one of the three crew members, also became the nation’s first woman in space.
China’s ground base regulated the docking by remote control, and then Yang, along with fellow crew member Liu Wang and mission commander Jing Haipeng, entered the Tiangong-1 module for a 10-day stay in space. Although China did not send a man into space until 2003, becoming the third nation to do so behind both Russia and the United States, its space program does not lack for ambition. It plans to launch more manned space missions, possibly even to the moon, and to replace tiny Tiangong-1 with a larger 60-ton space station by 2020.
Artist’s rendering of the Tiangog-1 docking
with another craft.
Today, with much fanfare, China launched its Tiangong-1 space craft into orbit from a site in the Gobi Desert. The unmanned craft is set to dock with later Chinese ships, allowing engineers to practice and experiment with the techniques they’ll need to assemble the space station China plans to build by 2020. Reports from earlier this year suggested that the Tiangong-1 will be converted to taikonaut living quarters in the station, but more recent news indicates that it will be primarily a testing device. For more details about China’s space station dreams, including scientific goals, questions about the military’s intentions, and more, check out our coverage here.
Image courtesy of Xinhua News Agency
What’s the News: Scientists have known for a while that if you put harmful bacteria into outer space, they tend to get even more harmful. Since that discovery, researchers have been itching to know if the zero gravity and radiation of space will have similar effects on beneficial bacteria. With Monday’s launch of Endeavor, scientists can finally try to answer that question: alongside the astronauts, NASA launched the first ever space-faring cephalopod, along with the bioluminescent microbe with which it has a symbiotic relationship, to see if their relationship can stand the stresses of space travel. “This is the first [study] to look at beneficial bacteria” in space, lead researcher Jamie Foster told New Scientist.
The International Space Station
What’s the News: On Monday, China unveiled its plan to build a manned space station in the next decade. This announcement comes from a space program whose development has been, well, skyrocketing; China launched its first astronaut into Earth orbit in 2003 and completed its first spacewalk in 2008. If things go as planned, the station would be the third ever multi-module space station, after Russia’s Mir and the International Space Station.