China’s unmanned spacecraft makes a successful return to Earth⁠— racing ahead of India on the path to having a space station

China's new spacecraft lands successfully after orbiting the Earth for 68 hoursChina Academy of Space Technology

  • China’s experimental spacecraft successfully landed back on Earth after orbiting the planet for 2 days and 20 hours.
  • The unmanned charter was a test for human spaceflight for the country’s plans to set up its own space station by 2022.
  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has similar plans but a lot remains uncertain with the lockdown keeping the space agency’s scientists at home.
China’s manned space program is well on its way to constructing a space station by 2022. Today (May 8), its next-gen spacecraft made a successful landing after orbiting the Earth for 2 days and 20 hours.

India also has similar plans of setting up a space station but its fate remains uncertain with the current coronavirus lockdown in effect.

Prototype of China's new-generation manned spacecraft in the process of being hoistedChina Academy of Space Technology

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China’s capsule, which launched on May 6 abroad its brand new Long March-5B rocket, was confirmed to be ideal condition even after a small ‘anomaly’ earlier during the test. The China Manned Space Agency ( CMSA) said the cabin structure within the spacecraft was perfectly intact as well.

During its time in space, the spacecraft managed to complete a few experiments — like 3D printing — that will go a long way in helping China plan for its maiden human spaceflight.

The plan is to eventually send astronauts into space to set up a space station by 2022, followed by a trip to the Moon.

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India has similar plans, with a similar deadline
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced that it has plans of setting up its own space station by 2022 so that it can conduct experiments in without the pressures of gravity. “It will be a smaller module [as compared to the International Space Station (ISS)], which would be mainly used to carry out microgravity experiments,” said ISRO chairman K. Sivan in June last year.

Gaganyaan, the plan for India to send astronauts into space, was scheduled to take flight in December next year. Unmanned missions, like the one that China just concluded, were scheduled for December 2020 and June 2021.

However, experts opine that there may be delays given the current lockdown which has restricted the space agency’s scientists to their homes. Even Sivan said he doesn’t know what the new timeline will look like unlike the lockdown comes to an end.

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