China launches first research module of its Tiangong station into space

The Chinese space laboratory Wentian has lifted off early this morning bound for the Tiangong space station and will begin to be installed in the next few hours, according to the Chinese Space Agency.

The rocket carrying the module, a Long March-5B Y3, successfully departed from the Wenchang base in Hainan province, in the south of the country, at 14.22 in the afternoon (local time, 08.22 in the morning in Spain).

Wentian will dock semi-automatically with the station’s Tianhe core module to become the second segment of the three that will constitute the space station for the time being, after the launch of Tianhe in April 2021.

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Work on the module will mainly focus on the study of space life sciences, on the growth, development, genetics and aging of multiple species of plants, animals and microorganisms under space conditions, Lv Congmin, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has told China’s state-run international daily ‘Global Times’.

In addition to its use for experiments, the 23-ton, nearly 18-meter-long laboratory module will provide the Tiangong crew with a special airlock and emergency shelter to ensure their safety during outdoor activities.

China is preparing the October launch of a second research module, the Mengtian, more oriented to scientific research in microgravity situations, equipped with experimental cabinets for experiments in fluid physics, materials science, combustion science, basic physics and space technology.

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