On Friday, China has launched one of the world’s most powerful rockets as a part of its ambitious plans for a mission to the Red Planet in 2020 and their hopes of having a crewed space station by 2022. The heavy-lift Long March 5 rocket carrying the Shijian 20 test satellite took off from Wenchang launch Site on Southern Island of Hainan at 8:45 pm or 6:15 pm IST or 12:45 pm GMT. This was live-streamed from a State CCTV broadcaster.
According to the official Xinhua news agency,” After more than 2000 seconds, the Shijian 20 satellite was sent into its predetermined orbit”. “the rocket launch tests key technologies related to future space missions” they added.
In a video released by CCTV last week, the deputy head of China’s National Space Administration, Wu Yanhua said that the Long March 5 rocket is tasked with important missions.
We can see from the videos posted in social media that a large crowd had shown up for the launch and cheered as the rocket took off to the night sky. More than a million people also watched the live stream of the launch.
It is being said that the rocket would be tasked with key missions, which include the launching of China’s Mars probes, the Change’s Lunar probe, and a core module for the manned space station.
The rocket was nicknamed as “Fat Five” which was a trending topic in social media platform Weibo, which is similar to Twitter.
China’s previous attempt to launch the rocket (March 5 Y2) was failed in July 2017, and the success of the March 5 rocket put their space ambitions back on track. Duty of March 5 Y2 was to put the Shijian 18 communication test satellite into the orbit, the failure of which delayed their mission to collect lunar samples in 2017.
The Long March 5 can deliver up to 25 tonnes, and this capacity is comparable to the US made Delta IV and the Russian Proton M, which are some of the most powerful launch vehicles, according to NASA. The US’s Saturn V that was used to take astronauts to space in 1969 was made to carry 140 tonnes of payload to Earth’s lower orbits.
China’s space ambitions are high, and Beijing has invested billions of dollars in outsmarting its main rival, the United States. In 2003, China was the 3rd nation to put a human into the orbit, and they are now spending more than Russia and Japan on its military space programs.
Shortly after the new year in Jan 2019, China released the Moon lander Chang’e 4 which is named after the Moon Goddes in Chinese mythology, to become the first nation to land a probe to the far side of the moon. They released the rover in the Moons south pole, the Aitken Basin.
As mentioned at the beginning, China aims to have a manned space station in the orbit by 2022. They also plan to replace the International space station, which will expire in 2024 with The Tiangong- “ a heavenly palace.”
US is a little alarmed by China’s space plans, which is a threat to US dominance in space. The White House has announced the creation of a new military arm called Space Force at the beginning of December 2019, and President Donald Trump was calling Space, “the world’s newest warfighting domain.”