BEIJING: China’s new prototype spacecraft successfully landed on Friday, marking an important step in its ambitions to run a permanent space station and send astronauts to the moon.
The spacecraft — which was launched on Tuesday — arrived safely at a predetermined site, the China Manned Space Agency said, after a hitch in an earlier part of the key test.
It said the cabin structure of the spacecraft had been confirmed on site as being intact. The test vessel was launched with a cargo capsule aboard a new type of carrier rocket from the Wenchang launch site on the southern island of Hainan.
The space agency said the vessel was in orbit for two days and 19 hours and had completed a number of experiments. Its return has also verified the spacecraft’s capabilities such as its heat resistance.
It is hoped the spaceship will one day transport astronauts to a space station that China plans to complete by 2022 — and eventually to the Moon. Thes safe landing follows a snag in an earlier part of the test when an unspecified “anomaly” occurred during the return of the cargo capsule.
China is hoping to run a permanent space station, as well as eventually sending astronauts to the moon, and sees this latest mission as a step in that direction.
Assembly of the Chinese Tiangong space station, whose name means “Heavenly Palace,” is expected to begin later this year and finish in 2022. China became the first nation to reach the far side of the Moon thanks to a lunar rover in January 2019.