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Rocket Launches First Space Lab Tiangong-1 For China

A Long March rocket launched the first space lab Tiangong-1 For China on Thursday.

A Long March rocket launched the first space lab Tiangong-1 For China on Thursday.

On Thursday at 9:16 pm local time, China launched its first space laboratory, Tiangong-1 , from the north of China in the Gobi Desert using a Long March rocket. The cylindrical module which is about 10.5m long will orbit the Earth at about 350km and is unmanned. However, it is expected that astronauts or yuhangyuans, from China will visit the module some time next year, after more testing and experiments have been completed.  Tiangong is Chinese for “heavenly palace”.

The module will be monitored from Earth to begin with, but it is expected that, probably in the next few weeks, China will launch a second unmanned spacecraft, the Shenzhou 8, and the two units will try to link together in space. This docking and undocking procedure is, of course, essential if China is to follow through on its promise to build its own space station before the end of this decade.

The first manned flight for China was in 2003, with only three countries having achieved this, Russia and the United States being the other two. The Chinese space station is expected to be much smaller than the International Space Station, ISS, which has been a joint effort between 16 nations, and is expected to continue its operations until 2028.

The space lab has several purposes, but its main one is to provide the ability for practicing the procedures for docking and undocking of spacecraft, but it will also use special cameras to conduct surveys of farmland in China, and it will also be conducting some experiments in space, where it is expected to continue operating for at least two years.

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Eric is an unashamed techno-geek (with an odd love of the outdoors) and one of the few people who can start a conversation in a roomful of similarly inclined techies and end up being the focal point for a crowd ... he also has the benefit of being able to speak and write in ways that are understandable to normal humans.

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