Is China Building a Space Station?

There are mixed reports coming out of China on their plans to loft a space station by 2020. A Chinese aerospace engineer, Long Lehao, mentioned to journalists that the China National Space Administration was planning to build a “small-scale 20 tonne space workshop”. But then space officials at the agency denied the report. So what’s going on?

The Chinese official new agency Xinhua reported that Li Guoping, a spokesman for the agency said, “China at present has not decided on developing a space station.” That sounds like the possibility is still open, in my opinion.

China has mentioned in the past that they’d like to launch a space station of their own, some time in the next 10 to 15 years. But they never pinned down a specific date, like the 2020 goal announced by Long Lehao. If the agency does have a firm date, Lehao would know. He’s a leading designer for the Long March 3A, the rocket that carried China’s Chang’e-1 lunar satellite into space.

And speaking of Chang’e-1, this contradicting news arrives just as the spacecraft has entered lunar orbit. After a two-week journey to the Moon, the spacecraft performed an orbiting maneuver so perfectly that the agency thinks they’ve saved a bunch of fuel. This fuel should allow the spacecraft to orbit the Moon for longer, delaying the inevitable date when it crashes down.

The first photos from Chang’e-1 should arrive later this month. And by early next year, the probe will have measured the entire surface of the Moon at least once.

And just in case you’re hoping the spacecraft will be able to image the Apollo astronaut footprints, sorry, it doesn’t have the resolution. But I’ll bet it’ll be able to see the landers.

Original Source: Xinhua Article