China successfully launches the first piece of its space station

As NASA looks to other worlds, China's orbital space program is just heating up: just today they launched the Tiangong 1 space station module, the first step to them getting their own space station in orbit.

China hopes to have a manned station in orbit by 2020, and the Tiangong is the first step towards that. It's going up to practice docking with other modules, which is a pretty important part of space station building. So the module will go up and hang in orbit, and then in about a month another craft, the Shenzou 8, will head up to dock with it.

Why does China want its own space station so badly? I'll leave that to the experts/conspiracy theorists to figure out. One interesting fact to note: it's got the same docking modules as the ISS, meaning an orbital rendezvous isn't out of the question.

Xinhua, via TIME, via TechCrunch

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