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China sends first civilian to its Tiangong space station

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As China plans to send a crewed mission to the moon by 2030, three astronauts including one civilian for the first time were sent to Chinese space outpost Tiangong space station Tuesday Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China.

China has poured billions of dollars into its space programme as Russia and US claim success in their space exploration activities.

The Shenzhou-16 crew took off atop a Long March 2F rocket as Zou Lipeng, director of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center regarded it a “complete success” and the “astronauts are in good condition.”

The launch was attended by a large number of employees that were resided live year-round on the huge site, capturing pictures with the rocket in the background.

Commander Jing Haipeng was leading the mission which makes his fourth alongside engineer Zhu Yangzhu and Beihang University professor Gui Haichao, the first Chinese civilian in space.

Staff members from the China space program stand before the launch platform of the Shenzhou-16 Manned Space Flight Mission one day before launch at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in Chinas northwestern Gansu province on May 29, 2023. — AFP
Staff members from the China space program stand before the launch platform of the Shenzhou-16 Manned Space Flight Mission one day before launch at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in China’s northwestern Gansu province on May 29, 2023. — AFP

China became the third country to send humans into orbit and Tiangong is the crown jewel of its space programme, which has also landed robotic rovers on Mars — Zhurong (rover) — and the Moon.

According to AFP, the Shenzhou craft will dock at the space station’s Tianhe core module.

After docking, the newly sent astronauts will meet their three colleagues from the Shenzhou-15 flight, who have been at the station for six months and will return to Earth in the coming days.

In the orbit, Shenzhou-16 will conduct several experiments, including “high-precision space time-frequency systems”, general relativity, and into the origin of life, CMSA spokesperson Lin Xiqiang told reporters Monday.

The Chinese space station was resupplied with drinking water, clothing, food and propellant this month in preparation for Shenzhou-16’s arrival.

An expert told AFP that Tuesday’s mission represented “a regular crew rotation flight”, but even that was significant.

“Accumulating depth of experience in human spaceflight operations is important and doesn’t involve new spectacular milestones all the time,” said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer and astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Xi Jinping’s space dream

Under Chinese President Xi Jinping, plans for China’s “space dream” have begun to start rolling.

Beijing is eyeing to establish a lunar base and CMSA spokesman Lin on Monday reaffirmed Beijing’s plan to land a manned mission there by 2030.

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets the media following the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. — Reuters/File
Chinese President Xi Jinping meets the media following the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. — Reuters/File

“The overall goal is to achieve China’s first manned landing on the Moon by 2030 and carry out lunar scientific exploration and related technological experiments,” CMSA said.

The final module of the T-shaped Tiangong — which means “heavenly palace” — successfully docked with the core structure last year.

According to Xinhua report, the station carries a number of pieces of cutting-edge scientific equipment including “the world’s first space-based cold atomic clock system.”

The Tiangong is likely to stay in low Earth orbit at between 400 and 450 kilometres (250 and 280 miles) above the planet for at least 10 years.

It is constantly crewed by rotating teams of three astronauts.

As Beijing does not have any plans to use Tiangong for global cooperation on the scale of the International Space Station (ISS), China said it is open to foreign collaboration.

China “is looking forward to and welcomes the participation of foreign astronauts in the country’s space station flight missions,” Lin said Monday.

China plans to send two crewed space missions to Tiangong every year, according to the CMSA.

The next will be Shenzhou-17, with an expected launch in October.

China has been effectively excluded from the ISS since 2011 when the US prohibited Nasa from keeping any engagement with the world’s second-largest economy.

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Users of WhatsApp will soon be able to lock chats on connected devices.

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Additionally, linked devices will now have access to the conversation lock feature. Users of WhatsApp will also soon have the option to tag their contacts in status updates.

Notably, WhatsApp users can link their devices to log in to the same account on different devices. However, several functions, such as conversation locks and status updates, are not accessible on the secondary devices.

Even if they are locked on the main conversations, anybody can still access your private chats on a connected device. WhatsApp is currently working on adding Chat Lock capability to connected devices in order to address this.

The chat lock feature on WhatsApp will soon be available on connected devices.

Prior to this, it was claimed that WhatsApp, which is owned by Meta, was developing new personalisation options for an iOS beta.

According to WABetaInfo, an update tracker portal for the instant messaging network, WhatsApp for iOS users will soon get the option to modify both the conversation bubble’s colour and the app’s primary colour scheme.

A feature that let beta testers choose the primary colour scheme of the WhatsApp iOS app from a selection of five colours was first tested back in January.

The instant messaging app is testing a feature that lets users change the colour of chat bubbles within conversations, though, in a new beta edition.

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Moon train operations are planned by NASA.

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The goal is to construct the first lunar train system, which will enable safe, independent, and effective cargo transportation on the moon, according to robotics specialist Ethan Schaler of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

He went on, “The day-to-day functioning of a sustainable lunar base in the 2030s will depend heavily on a robust, long-lasting robotic transport system.”

The Flexible Levitation on a Track, or FLOAT, is the name of the proposed lunar rail system. According to NASA, the establishment of a railway system on the moon is “critical to the daily operations.”

According to the space agency, the primary objective of FLOAT is to offer transportation services in regions of the moon where astronauts are engaged in activities. To do this, cargoes of lunar soil and other materials will need to be transported to various regions of the moon.

Each robot will be able to transport cargo of various sizes and shapes at a pace of roughly 1 mph (1.61 km/h), according to Dr. Schaler.

Notably, NASA also declared new initiatives last month to create and test new vehicle models intended for moon exploration.

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Pakistan’s lunar mission ‘ICUBE-Q’ reaches the moon orbit.

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Pakistan’s lunar mission (ICUBE-Q) entered orbit around the moon on Wednesday.

Pakistan’s historic lunar mission (ICUBE-Q) launched from Hainan, China, on Friday aboard China’s Chang’E6 spacecraft.

According to the IST, the satellite ICUBE-Q was planned and developed in partnership with China’s Shanghai University SJTU and Pakistan’s national space agency SUPARCO.

The ICUBE-Q orbiter is equipped with two optical cameras to image the lunar surface. ICUBE-Q has now been integrated into the Chang’e6 mission after successfully qualifying and testing it.

Chang’e6 is the sixth lunar exploration mission launched by China.

The launch event was streamed live on the IST website and social media platforms. Chang’6, China’s Lunar Mission, will land on the Moon’s far side to collect surface samples before returning to Earth for further research.

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