China will begin building space station within MONTHS in huge challenge to NASA

Skyrora unveil their UK-built space vehicle

The Tiangong space station will include living quarters for three astronauts to spend a period of around six months in space. Completion is planned for 2022 and it will orbit 340-420 kilometres above the Earth. The launch of its core module is scheduled for next spring.

Development of the station is part of more than 40 planned Chinese rocket launches this year. It is the country’s highest ever amount, outlining its ambitions to dominate space.

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) revealed the target at a meeting on January 4, according to Space News.

Last year, the nation conducted 39 launches, a stark contrast to their space exploration output prior to 2007. Until then, they had never launched more than 10 times in one calendar year.

Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China’s human spaceflight program, told state broadcaster CCTV: “We firmly believe that it will play a major role in the forefront of scientific exploration of humanity and also in the development of our space technology.”

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Last month, Beijing successfully completed a probe of the Moon, returning lunar samples to Earth for the first time in more than 40 years.

Chang’e 5 touched down back on Earth, landing in the Siziwang district of the Inner Mongolia region, in the early hours of December 17.

Concluding the mission means China is only the third country to successfully bring samples back from the Moon, following in the footsteps of the USA and the USSR.

The Chang’e-6 project is projected to target the moon’s south pole around 2023-4.

The Soviet Union’s Luna 24 robot probe in 1976 is the last occasion in which Moon samples have been returned to Earth.

China hopes to establish a manned research base on the lunar south pole within the next 30 years.

Dmitry Rogozin, chief of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, suggested his country could join forces with China.

Speaking to the Solovyev LIVE Youtube channel, Mr Rogozin said: “Recently we have agreed that we will probably research the Moon and build a Moon research base together, Russia and China.”

The European Space Agency (ESA), which the UK is part of, is also believed to be interested in collaborating with the Chinese effort.

Speaking to SpaceNews, Karl Bergquist, the ESA’s international relations administrator, said: “At ESA we are following the Chinese lunar exploration plans very closely in order to see where our respective programmatic interest could meet, primarily the CE-6, -7 and -8 missions but also the ILRS initiative.”

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Jan Woerner, the German Director General of the ESA, has previously suggested different countries could collaborate to create a “Moon village”.

The Trump administration has set NASA a target to return humans to the Moon in 2024.

No human has set foot on the Moon since NASA’s Apollo 17 mission in December 1972.

If NASA is successful in returning humans to the Moon in 2024 it plans to move onto Mars in the early 2030s.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has indicated a test of two Mars-bound Starship spacecraft could happen later this month.

He responded ‘yes’ when asked on Twitter if a test would be performed over the next few weeks.

The South African launched the SpaceX Mars program to facilitate the colonisation of the Red Planet.

He has said he would like to send a million people to Mars by 2050.

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