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China making great progress in their space program - SpacePod 2011.11.09

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A major milestone for human spaceflight. This is your SpacePod for November 9th, 2011. To best understand what has recently happened, we need to first roll back the clock to September 29th, 2011 and head on over to Jiuquan Launch Area 4 complex. [Countdown in Chinese] What you're watching is the launch of Tiangong 1, which translates to Heavenly Palace 1, aboard a modified Long March 2F rocket. This is the first part of what we'll call China's test space station. Floating in space for just over a month, this 11-foot-wide, 34-foot-long module is a target vehicle for what would come next. On October 31st, 2011 at 21:58 UTC another modified Long March 2F rocket took to the skies. Aboard was the second part of this test station, the Shenzhou 8 spacecraft, which roughly translates to "Divine Craft" or my personal favorite "Magic Boat". With a series of maneuvers China brought their Magic Boat to over 27,000 kilometers per hour and right up to the Heavenly Palace. Then on November 2nd at 17:28 UTC China accomplished something that very few countries have done before. And just like that... China has performed their first ever space based docking. This is not an easy thing to do in the vacuum of space at a velocity of 7.8 kilometers per second. According to some media outlets they are one of only three countries to accomplish this feat... Reporter: The successful docking makes China only the third nation in the world after the United States and Russia to master this technique. It now moves China one step closer to establishing its own space station. Ben: And while that's fun to say, it's not exactly true. A handful of other countries have mastered docking techniques. The European Space Agency's Jules Verne Automated Transfer Vehicle which sends food and supplies to the International Space Station is certainly a good example of that. Nevertheless, China has become a member in a very exclusive club and with this ability can begin to unlock further manned spaceflights. Docking in space is an important factor for being able to host not only a space station, but also unlocking the ability to send crafts to the Moon, Mars and beyond. To get to these other alien worlds a space based docking with other craft, fuel depots or space stations will likely be required, just as it was during the Apollo era when the command and service module had to dock with the lunar module. For China ,space based docking is even more important as they don't currently have a rocket with the amount of thrust and lift capability that the Saturn V had to loft Apollo. Actually, right now no one has a rocket that powerful, which means space based re-fueling may be our best chance to travel to those other alien bodies. For China, this is just the beginning. Tiangong 1 is expected to be visited 2 more times by Shenzhou craft, the manned Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10, both expected in 2012. After this test is complete, China is planning on launching the larger and more capable Tiangong 2 in 2013 and Tiangong 3 in 2015. Now Tiangong-3's design will form the basis of a full-size, multi-module space station, which is expected to launch in the early 2020s.

Video Details

Duration: 4 minutes and 34 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Benjamin Higginbotham
Director: Benjamin Higginbotham
Views: 73
Posted by: spacevidcast on Mar 24, 2012

A major milestone for human spaceflight. This is your SpacePod for November 9th, 2011.

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