China send space lab into orbit
China successfully send space lab into 350 km high orbit which can host human in space. A rocket carrying China's first space laboratory, Tiangong 1, has launched from the Jiuquan spaceport. In Chinese, Tiangong means "heavenly palace" or "sky palace".
For time being, the 10.5m long cylindrical module will go without any human and Chinese astronauts are expected to visit it next year. The module will operate in an autonomous mode and within few weeks, China will launch another unmanned spacecraft, Shenzhou 8 which will link with Tiangong-1. If the Shenzhou 8 venture goes well, China will send two manned missions (Shenzhou 9 and 10) in 2012.
As International Space Station (ISS), operated by the US, Russia, Europe, Canada and Japan, is going to shut down and since there is no plan to replace it before 2020, China could be only country sending human in the space till 2020. China announced that its aim is to build a space station with about 60 tonne by about 2020 which would be considerably smaller than the 400-tonne International Space Station.
The proposed life time of Tiangong-1 is two-year. It is likely to be followed by two more similar labs. China claims that at the end of their missions, the modules will be driven into earth atmosphere for a destructive descent into a remote part of the Pacific Ocean.
It is possible to see Tiangong 1 with naked eye from lower latitudes as it has an orbital inclination of 42 degrees.
The present success is a prominent sign of Chinese domination in the space.
(1st October 2011)