Foreign astronauts show interest in Chinese space station

Astronauts from around the world have expressed interest in China's future space laboratory and station which is expected to be operational by 2022.

PTI| Last Updated: Sep 15, 2014, 20:23 PM IST

Beijing: Astronauts from around the world have expressed interest in China's future space laboratory and station which is expected to be operational by 2022.

Meeting in Beijing for the 27th annual meeting of the non-governmental Association of Space Explorers (ASE), astronauts from Russia, the US and other countries visited Beijing Space Flight City, one of China's major space science and technology facilities.

China's space station which is currently undergoing experimental tests is expected to be fully constructed by 2022.

The Russian station, Mir, which is currently in orbit is expected to be scrapped by 2020.

China sent Tiangong-1, its first space laboratory and target spacecraft, into orbit in September 2011.

It plans to send Tiangong-2 space laboratory into orbit, and around 2022 its first space station will be completed.

Zhou Jianping, chief engineer of China's manned space programme, said in September 2013 that China is willing to provide platforms for experiments for countries and regions to peacefully use outer space and foreign astronauts are expected to board China's space station.

"We are quite willing to cooperate with China. In terms of the space station programme, the two sides can cooperate in biology, space science and technology, life support systems and others," said Russian cosmonaut Sergei Avdeev, who spent over 748 days on the Mir Space Station, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Liu Yang, who became China's first female astronaut in June 2012, said that many astronauts at the meeting expressed their interest in Tiangong, and some from Italy, Canada and other countries said they would like to learn Chinese in order to cooperate in the future.

Yang Liwei, now deputy head of China's Manned Space Agency, said that China has reserved some platforms in its space station for cooperation with other countries.

China has designed interfaces on its space modules so that they can dock with those of other countries.

"The space station is an interesting place where crew members with different origins and cultures work together because we have the same interests and passion for space exploration," said American astronaut Pamela Ann Melroy, who commanded a mission on space shuttle Discovery, which docked with ISS in 2007.