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Sub-anchor: China marks 46th anniversary of space exploration


04-23-2016 05:48 BJT

For more on the country's space exploration, let's bring in my colleague Zhao Lingfeng.

Q1: So 46 years of history for China’s space exploratio. If we look back, Lingfeng, what has the nation accomplished?

A1:  Quite a bit.  Let me recap for our viewers. First, 226, that’s number of launches completed by the Long March rocket family since the Dong Fang Hong 1, China first satellite, was sent into orbit.  Last year, China completed 19 launches, ranking third behind Russia and the US. This year, more than 20 launches are scheduled.

Meanwhile, more than 160 satellites are currently in service 22 belong to China’s Beidou Navigation satellite system, or BDS.  Global coverage is planned by 2020 with over 30 satellites.

As for astronauts. 11 men and one woman have participated in five missions in the past 13 years. The longest stay is 12 days in orbit. And let's not forget the Lunar Exploration Program.  Four major probe missions, with one hard landing and one soft landing. The Chang’e 3 orbiter touched down and released the Yutu rover on to the surface.

The data it sent back gave us a new look at Earth's closest neighbor. So Qiu Yuan, that's a lot of achievements in less than 5 decades.

Q2. A lot has been conquered. How is the country going to move forward in its space program? What should we watch for in the coming years?

A2. There is definitely a lot to look forward to. According to the just-announced Mars plan, a mission to send a rover to the Red Planet by around 2020. The spacecraft will orbit, land and deploy a rover all in one single mission. And major upgrades are in store for the Long March rocket family.

The heavy-lifter Long March-5 is scheduled to launch this year. Its maximum payload is 25 tons, more than two and half times what's now possible. And there's the mid-sized Long March 7. With a bit over half of his big brother’s capacity, it will transport cargo for the planned space station.

Next year should also see the launch of another space module and a manned spacecraft. It is also for the lunar mission, Chang’e-5 spacecraft. It will be China's first return mission, featuring a recoverable rover. The most exciting news is the space station… Assembly will get going by around 2018 with the launch of a core space station module, named Tianhe-1… The entire assembly process may take up to 4 years.

It will be the world’s third space station. As the International Space Station is scheduled to retire in 2024, China would be the only country with a space station by then. So Qiuyuan, in the coming years, we'll see a lot of action on the launch pad -- and in outer space.

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