The Sciences

China Launches the First Module of Its Space Station Program

80beatsBy Veronique GreenwoodSep 29, 2011 3:46 PM

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Artist's rendering of the Tiangog-1 docking with another craft.

Today, with much fanfare, China launched its Tiangong-1 space craft into orbit from a site in the Gobi Desert

. The unmanned craft is set to dock with later Chinese ships, allowing engineers to practice and experiment with the techniques they'll need to assemble the space station China plans to build by 2020. Reports from earlier this year suggested that the Tiangong-1 will be converted to taikonaut living quarters in the station

, but more recent news indicates that it will be primarily a testing device

. For more details about China's space station dreams, including scientific goals, questions about the military's intentions, and more, check out our coverage here

. Image courtesy of Xinhua News Agency

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