With a deadly pandemic raging outside, this may not be the time to look above us into the skies. But a future cold war like situation, is building up there. The International Space Station (ISS) is one of the marvels of humanity, a global initiative – only the Chinese are the large nation to get left out & no Chinese has been onboard ISS due to a US Congressional ban. ISS was a successor to the Soviet Mir program and ISS was built at a cost of over US$150 Billion over decades with major contributions from the USA, Russia, Europe, Japan & Canada.
Last week, China took the first major in addressing this anomaly from their perspective with the launch of the Tianhe core module, which is part of their Tiangong space station. Over the course of the next few years and 11 missions the Chinese Space station will be constructed, the third mission will be the first crewed mission.
Space Stations are extremely complex labs & human habitats in the sky that can do so much more than man-made satellites. Mars colonization is a distant future, but these are real, and the world needs them now to enhance our knowledge of space and sciences – many medical breakthroughs, gene therapies, molecular studies, vaccine discoveries have been made from the works conducted in ISS.
The Chinese Tiangong should be concerning to the world, especially for the USA, Europe & India – as there is no clarity between the sponsors of ISS on its extension or its successor – ISS is fast becoming old and difficult to maintain.
Currently, Russia has expressed interest in a space station of its own and India’s ISRO has talked about building one – but these will take a decade or more even after fully approved by their respective countries. Till then Chinese Tianhe space station may be the only human habitat outside the Earth for the Human race.
P.S.: There is news of the components of the Long March 5B rocket that launched Tianhe core falling back on Earth uncontrolled. I read that the Tianhe core launch was successful, and this is only the rocket return that seems to have gone bad.
[The picture on the top of this post is of the International Space Station from Wikipedia commons]
Update 17th June 2021:
As announced earlier, today China sent the first crewed spacecraft in nearly five years, carrying astronauts on their way to the new Tianhe module in the Tiangong space station.