China’s Space Program Achieves Significant Milestone

First female Chinese astronaut conducts spacewalk . . .

On October 16, China launched its latest space mission, Shenzhou 13. The crew of three astronauts reached the Tianhe space module for a six-month mission, China’s longest space mission to date. On November 7, two Chinese astronauts successfully “walked in space,” reaching an important milestone for the mission. Considered a significant achievement in space exploration, a spacewalk refers to an action that an astronaut performs outside of a spacecraft. Wang Yaping, one of the two astronauts venturing outside the module, became the first Chinese female astronaut to conduct a spacewalk.

Building China’s Tiangong space station . . .

The Shenzhou 13 space mission is China’s second crewed and most ambitious inhabited space mission to date. Its objective is to conduct various experiments inside and outside the module and further prepare the Tianhe module for receiving two additional modules (Mengtian and Wentian), which, once assembled, will form China’s space station, Tiangong. Six more missions will be required to complete Tiangong, including two additional crewed missions, two missions to send the additional modules into orbit, and two more cargo missions to deliver supplies and fuel to the station.

Space as the next frontier for Sino-US competition?

China’s space program has made remarkable progress over the last few years. It successfully explored the moon’s surface in 2019 with a rover that collected lunar rocks, and in May 2021, China landed a rover on Mars, becoming only the second country after the U.S. to do so. China has several more planned space objectives for the coming decades, culminating in setting up a base on Mars by 2045. In light of these advancements and China’s overall space ambitions, some in the U.S. and worldwide see space as the next area for competing with China. And with the potential for U.S.-China co-operation in space being highly limited, as most space technologies have both civilian and military uses, the potential for competition in space triggering a new arms race is as great as it is dangerous.