China’s Tianzhou-1 space module launches into orbit

Image copyright Xinhua Image caption People celebrate in Inner Mongolia China’s Tianzhou-1 space module successfully launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in southern Sichuan province on Saturday night. After the successful satellite launch,…

China's Tianzhou-1 space module launches into orbit

Image copyright Xinhua Image caption People celebrate in Inner Mongolia

China’s Tianzhou-1 space module successfully launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in southern Sichuan province on Saturday night.

After the successful satellite launch, China’s Premier Li Keqiang held a meeting on Sunday morning to give the military’s signal approval.

About 40 minutes later, it began its flight and was later confirmed to have completed its landing.

This marked the country’s second manned space mission – and first involving women.

A statement released on Saturday by the Science and Technology Committee said: “With the image of the Earth on the head of the spaceship, the duo will carry out experiments on formation flying and on the performance of thrust.”

Analysis by Krishnan Guru-Murthy, political correspondent for BBC Asia

Inner Mongolia appears to be very cold at the moment – at least while cameras are down – and so a caption read: “Intermittent weather conditions in Sichuan this weekend.”

The Tianzhou-1 space module has been well-protected from the harsh environment of space with a lightweight carbon fibre shroud and sealed windows, so the real fate of the module is anyone’s guess.

There are hundreds of vehicles orbiting the Earth today, but the actual astronauts aboard these capsules are not subject to what is known as the “Earth re-entry zone” – the area between 160 km (100 miles) and 200 km where the surface of the Earth is exceptionally hostile to life.

The idea that a space object would fall back to Earth while it is orbiting at greater than 17,000km (10,000 miles) altitude is pure fantasy, hence the use of real words such as “ballistic debris” in the statement from China’s Science and Technology Committee.

China had promised the public it was fully prepared for the mission. Chinese media organisations sent en masse copies of the Lunar Exploration Journal, a Chinese government-funded journal that collects out-of-copyright papers from the world’s top space researchers.

China launched its first satellite, the Chang’e-1, in 2007. In 2015, the country sent a rover to the moon, and spent two weeks observing and photographing the surface of the moon with high-definition cameras.

In November, China performed its first-ever vertical mission – to land a spacecraft in the moon’s far side, even though the moon is not visible from the Earth.

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