China’s space program: Five things to know

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Chang’e-3, which carried a robotic rover, was China’s first touchdown on the Moon.

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Chang’e-3, which carried a robotic rover, was China’s first touchdown on the Moon.

When Chang’e-3 turned the primary Chinese language craft to land on the moon 10 years in the past, it kicked off nationwide celebrations—and a decade of main successes for a quickly accelerating area program.

Because the December 14, 2013 touchdown, China has constructed a crewed area station, despatched a robotic rover to Mars and turn out to be the primary nation to make a managed touchdown on the far facet of the moon.

President Xi Jinping has described constructing China into an area energy as “our everlasting dream”.

Listed below are 5 issues to learn about this area program:

A sluggish begin

Chinese language chief Mao Zedong declared his nation’s area ambitions quickly after the Soviet Union launched the world’s first satellite tv for pc, Sputnik 1, in 1957.

It took 13 years for China to launch its first satellite tv for pc Dong Fang Hong, or “The East is Crimson”—named after the well-known Communist revolutionary track it broadcast from orbit.

It was not till the late Nineteen Eighties that this system started to choose up tempo, alongside China’s ascent into the world’s richest and strongest nations.

Overseen by the army, its secretive area program’s objectives turned extra formidable. In 1992, it formally started a mission to ship people into area.

‘Taikonauts’

Greater than three a long time after its first satellite tv for pc launch, on October 15, 2003, Yang Liwei turned the primary Chinese language to journey into area, and an prompt nationwide hero.


China recurrently launches astronauts to its Tiangong area station.

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China recurrently launches astronauts to its Tiangong area station.

With the success of his Shenzhou 5 mission, China turned solely the third nation after the US and Russia to reveal the flexibility to launch people into area.

In complete, 20 Chinese language astronauts have made the journey into area, together with two girls. State media have used the time period “taikonaut” to explain China’s spacefarers.

Lots of them have journeyed to Tiangong, China’s first long-term area station whose development was accomplished final yr.

Although a lot smaller than the Worldwide Area Station, it accommodates dwelling quarters for a rotating crew, robotic arms and airlocks for conducting spacewalks.

To the moon

China has additionally despatched exploration missions to the moon.

Named after the moon goddess in Chinese language folklore, Chang’e-3 touched down on the floor in 2013, making China solely the third nation to efficiently land there.


China was the primary nation to make a managed touchdown on the far facet of the Moon.

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China was the primary nation to make a managed touchdown on the far facet of the Moon.

Two different milestones adopted. In 2019, China turned the primary nation to make a managed touchdown on the far facet of the moon with Chang’e-4.

A yr later, Chang’e-5 introduced the primary lunar samples to Earth in additional than 40 years.

Chinese language area authorities have mentioned they plan to land people on the moon by 2030, in addition to construct a lunar base.

Mars and deep area

One of the crucial spectacular successes of the Chinese language area program got here in 2021 when its Tianwen-1 mission landed a rover named Zhurong on the floor of Mars.

China is barely the second nation after the US to place a robotic rover on the Crimson Planet.

Officers have mentioned they intention to ship a crewed mission there by 2033.

Except for landers and orbiters, China is quickly anticipated to launch an area telescope named Xuntian.

Orbiting near the Tiangong area station, with which it might dock, Xuntian is predicted to have a subject of view far higher than NASA’s Hubble telescope.


Chinese language astronauts Jiang Xinlin, Tang Shengjie and Tang Hongbo wave earlier than boarding the Shenzhou-17 spacecraft on October 26, 2023.

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Chinese language astronauts Jiang Xinlin, Tang Shengjie and Tang Hongbo wave earlier than boarding the Shenzhou-17 spacecraft on October 26, 2023.


China landed a robotic rover on Mars in 2021.

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China landed a robotic rover on Mars in 2021.







Protection and status

Whereas China says it opposes the weaponisation of area, its coverage makers have additionally recognized area as crucial to nationwide protection and safety.

Its army is a core participant within the nationwide area program, and China is creating spy satellites, anti-satellite missiles and digital warfare capabilities, in keeping with the US army.

China “sees counterspace operations as a way to discourage and counter a US intervention throughout a regional army battle”, the Pentagon mentioned in a report back to Congress this yr.

And past the direct functions of those applied sciences, China considers success in area as a significant driver of its picture as a worldwide energy at house and overseas.

“Nationwide status is maybe one of the crucial necessary, if not an important, motives driving Chinese language area ambitions,” mentioned R. Lincoln Hines, an assistant professor on the Georgia Institute of Expertise in the US.

“These symbols of accelerating worldwide standing present a robust type of home propaganda.”

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