China plans to open its Tiangong space station to tourism within a decade

China is seeking to spark interest in space tourism by opening its soon-to-be-completed space station to ordinary citizens.

Yang Liwei, who made history in 2003 by becoming China’s first astronaut in space, said Chinese media earlier this month that people without formal astronaut training could soon visit the Tiangong Space Station.

“It’s not about technology but about demand,” Yang said when asked if the general public would be able to visit Tiangong. “And that can be achieved within a decade as long as there is such demand.”

Yang was speaking as a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which is part of China’s annual political sessions taking place in Beijing. Adding more weight to the comments, Zhou Jianping, known as the chief designer of China’s manned spaceflight program, who said later the country’s Shenzhou crew spacecraft could be used for space tourism. Taken together, the comments suggest that China is seeking to establish a market for space tourism.

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But first, China must complete the three-module T-shaped space station and make it fully operational. China plans to launch six missions this year to complete Tiangong. These will be launches of two new modules, a pair of cargo supply missions and two crewed missions, Shenzhou 14 and Shenzhou 15. The two three-person missions are also expected to perform the first crew transfer , which will temporarily see six astronauts on board. the space station.

But the Shenzhou spacecraft, which launches from Jiuquan in the Gobi Desert on an established Long March 2F rocket, won’t be the only option for getting tourists into space. China is working on a reusable rocket for manned spaceflightwho would be able to launch a new, larger and partially reusable crew spaceship to the space station, previously reported. The new approach would mean more people could fly into space at once.

While the Shenzhou spacecraft can only carry three astronauts, the new generation of crewed spacecraft will be able to carry six to seven astronauts, Huang Kewu, a human spaceflight manager with the country’s leading space contractor, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, said last year.

Commercial options are also being developed. CAS Space, a commercial spin-off of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), aims to offer space walks to tourists from 2025apparently inspired by blue origin. Meanwhile, space plane Space Transportation company is developing a “rocket with wingsfor space tourism and point-to-point travel, aiming for a first suborbital flight in 2025. Orbital flights are planned around 2030.

Wu Ji, a researcher at the CAS National Center for Space Science, told the Beijing Review last year that he hoped Chinese companies could compete in the international space tourism market. “Commercial programs can help reduce costs and improve the efficiency of space activities, which will also benefit traditional players in this field,” Wu said.

The first space tourism flights in China may not take off for a few years, but the country seems determined to establish multiple ways for tourists to reach space.

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