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China launches first module of new space station

China has launched a module of its new permanent space station, marking the latest move in Beijing’s increasingly ambitious solo space program. The module contains living quarters for crew members and was launched from the Wenchang Space Launch Center utilizing a Long March 5B rocket. According to projections, China hopes to have the new space station inhabited and operational by 2022. The only space station currently in orbit is the International Space Station, which does not house Chinese crew.

For the past few decades of space exploration, China has been behind its counterparts, sending its first astronaut into orbit in 2003. China has sent two previous space stations into orbit, however, both were trial stations that only permitted relatively short stays by astronauts. The two trial stations were named Taingong-1 and Tiangong-2. The new model is set to be operational for at least ten years, according to Beijing.

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