By Erik Crouch
Image via dzb.lyrb.com.cn
International space station? More like Western capitalist space station! China’s competitor to the ISS, the Tiangong program, will be receiving its next guests in June, according to Xinhua.
The Tiangong-1 is currently just a single module, but serves as an experimental station as China prepares to develop a permanent presence in space. The next step is the Senzhou-10 spacecraft, which will rocket three astronauts into space to connect with the module in June.
China’s extra-Earth ambitions don’t end there: the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) has announced that it plans to launch 20 spacecraft in 2013, including the Chang’e-3 moon rover. China is making up for lost time – it sent its first man into space in 2003, and completed its first moonwalk in 2008. The west (and Russia, and Japan) can shove its International Space Station up a black hole, because the Tiangong program (which was launched aboard a rocket called the “Long March 2F”) plans to grow into full-fledged competitor to the ISS, and the Chang’e-3 will be rolling around on the lunar surface pre-2014.
China hopes to be responsible for 20 percent of the spacecrafts in orbit by 2020: hopefully these specimens of Chinese engineering are more “high speed rail” [Ed.: really?] and less “toxic cloud of pollution“.