With China gearing up to launch manned space station Tiangong by 2022, among those who will benefit from China throwing its doors open to aid the space programmes of other countries will be Pakistan.
With China’s help, Pakistan is planning to send an astronaut to space for the first time. The Imran Khan government had first approved of the plan in October 2018.
Towards this goal, Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) and a Chinese company signed an initial agreement in 2018. After the opening ceremony of China Space Day this week, Amer Nadeem, the chairman of SUPARCO said, “Hopefully, the agreement on the matter will be signed very soon. We will select the candidates based on the agreement. Also, they will come to China for some parts of the training.”
In early 2018, Pakistan had launched two indigenously built satellites into orbit, using a Chinese launch vehicle.
But it’s not just Pakistan that China is open to with regard to cooperation. With the International Space Station retiring in 2024, China will be the only country with manned space station. The country had initially announced in May 2018 that the lab would be open to “all countries” to conduct science experiments.
As China Daily reported recently, Simonetta Di Pippo, the director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), has confirmed China’s determined plan to “further enhance global cooperation in space projects”.
This means the space station will be open to all UN member states in “manned space flight and exploration”. According to the report, “The station will be able to support research on astronomy, space life sciences, biotechnology, microgravity fundamental physics and space materials science.”
On the sidelines of the fourth China Space Day on April 24, Di Pippo said: “Last year, we issued an announcement offering opportunities for all UN member states to propose experiments they want to conduct using China’s space station. We have received more than 40 proposals before the deadline for submission. We will announce the winners probably by the end of June after evaluation.”
According to handbook released in May 2018 by China’s Manned Space Agency and the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs, China’s first space station will be made of three modules joined in a T shape.
The station is expected to have a lifespan of around 10 years.
China built the space station from scratch, the station’s chief designer Yang Hong had told the state broadcaster CCTV in an interview last year. According to him, it was “mostly because the country couldn’t use the ISS due to concerns over technology transfer and national security raised by the US, which led the development of the ISS with 14 other nations”.
The station builds on the knowledge China gathered from its first space station prototype, the space lab Tiangong-1, which came crashing back to earth in 2018 after spending six years in space.
“The China Space Station belongs not only to China, but also to the world,” Shi Zhongjun, China’s ambassador to the UN in Vienna, had said. “Outer space should become a new domain for promoting the common interests of everyone, rather than a new battlefield for competition and confrontation. Guided by the idea of a shared future, the China space station will become a common home in space for all humankind.”