International

China Launches 'Heavenly Palace-1' Into Space; Takes Step Toward Station

The Tiangong-1 ("Heavenly Palace-1") lifts off. i i

The Tiangong-1 ("Heavenly Palace-1") lifts off. Wang Jianmin/AP/Xinhua hide caption

itoggle caption Wang Jianmin/AP/Xinhua
The Tiangong-1 ("Heavenly Palace-1") lifts off.

The Tiangong-1 ("Heavenly Palace-1") lifts off.

Wang Jianmin/AP/Xinhua

With a nighttime liftoff from a launch pad on the edge of the Gobi Desert, China today put its unmanned Tiangong-1 ("Heavenly Palace-1") module into orbit and started a decade-long project aimed at constructing its own space station.

The module will "conduct surveys of Chinese farmland using special cameras, along with experiments involving growing crystals in zero gravity," The Associated Press says. Then, in coming years:

"China ... plans to launch an unmanned Shenzhou 8 spacecraft to practice remote-controlled docking maneuvers with the module, possibly within the next few weeks. Two more missions, at least one of them manned, are to meet up with it next year for further practice, with astronauts staying for up to one month.

"The 8.5-ton module ... is to stay aloft for two years, after which two other experimental modules are to be launched for additional tests before the actual station is launched in three sections between 2020 and 2022."

Xinhua, China's official news agency, says that "Tiangong-1, or 'Heavenly Palace-1,' speaks of a dream home from Chinese folklore, long envisioned as a secret place where deities reside."

ITN News has posted video of the liftoff.

ITN News/YouTube

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.