China successfully launches Wentien module as space station closes to completion

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China successfully launched its second module, named Wentian, towards the Tiangong space station early Sunday morning. Wentian took off on a Long March 5B rocket from Wenchang’s space launch site in Hainan, China at 2:22 a.m. ET (2:22 p.m. local time), docking at Tiangong Space Station approximately 1 pm later at 3:13 p.m. ET (3:13 a.m. local time).

The Wentian module contains equipment that enables Chinese astronauts, also known as taikonauts, to conduct various scientific experiments while on the station. As noted by the New York Times, the additional module will also provide three additional sleeping accommodations as well as another airlock that crew members may use for spacewalks.

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In June, China dispatched the three Shenzhou 14 crew members to Tiangong in preparation for the arrival of Wentian. Mengtian, the station’s third and last laboratory module, is scheduled to be launched on a Long March 5B in October. This will complement the Tiangong Space Station, forming a T-shaped structure once the final pod is docked.

There are some concerns about where the massive Long March 5B rocket is going to finish now that it has delivered Wentian, however. While most rockets descend safely into the ocean, such rockets do things differently. it delivers its payload by launching its entire first stage into low-Earth orbit, without anyway of redirecting or controlling its movement when it crashes down to the Earth.

In 2020, the rocket was blamed for the scrap metal that ended up in Cote d’Ivoire. It also conducted an uncontrolled descent into the Indian Ocean after delivering the Tianhe pod to space last year.

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