China preps first space station module for launch

Not to be outdone by the rest of the world's fancy schmancy International Space Station or whatever, the Chinese are getting ready to launch the first piece of their own space station into orbit later this year.

China's new space palace, called "Tiangong" (or "heavenly palace," see?) will be far smaller than the ISS, tipping the scales up here in zero-g at a mere 60 tons to the 450 tons or so of the ISS. It'll consist of one primary module (the one in the above pic, launching before the end of the year) along with two experiment modules and some extra docking ports for cargo craft.

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The docking hardware on the Tiangong will be compatible with ISS, suggesting that a space hook-up could be in play, if not between the stations themselves, than at least between the Chinese astronauts and whoever's hanging out at the ISS at the time. You know, a "come on over to our place and play some space-Parcheesi, let me grab you a space-beer and make sure and try the space-bean dip!"

Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Via Space.com

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