Monday, May 28, 2012

Made in China

Here's something I didn't know: China has launched a prototype space station, and plans to send three astronauts up for an extended stay sometime between June and August of this year.

The Tiangong 1 Space Laboratory Module has been in LEO since September 2011, and has already been visited by the unmanned Shenzhou 8 spacecraft in November 2011, which demonstrated docking ability and other maneuvers. The Tiangong 1 will be de-orbited in 2013 and replaced with Tiangong 2 and 3 in preparation for deployment of the more permanent Chinese Space Station (CSS) in 2020.

The purpose of the space station is to act as a zero-G laboratory for science experiments, and as an eventual refueling station for manned deep space exploration missions.

Here is a hilarious Chinese propaganda-y animation depicting the mission:

I especially like the shot at the 1:00 minute mark of two astronauts hanging out in their space suits inside an empty module while a third seems to be skipping joyfully around on a casual, untethered space walk. Even more funny than the video is the fact that the Chinese Space Agency originally released a similar animation with "America the Beautiful" mysteriously playing in the background. No explanation was given for what can only be assumed to be an unfortunate gaffe - or an ingenious prank by some pro-American CCTV intern who may or may not still have his job - but the video remains up on the CCTV website, with the soundtrack removed.

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