China Opens Tiangong’s Doors to Foreign Visitors

Image: CMSA

We’re not done with astronaut news just yet. Tiangong is also open for business.

A little over two years after China launched the core module for Tiangong, China’s national space station is ready and willing to host astronauts from other countries, a representative from the China Manned Space Agency announced Wednesday. The invitation comes after five crews of Chinese taikonauts have already made the orbiting lab their home away from home.

“We extend an invitation to the world and welcome all countries and regions committed to the peaceful use of outer space to cooperate with us and participate in the Chinese space station missions,” Lin Xiqiang, deputy director of CMSA, said at a press conference, according to state media agency Xinhua.

Soft power: China is making broad efforts to increase its partnerships in orbit through Tiangong and the International Lunar Research Station (ILPS), a partnership co-led by China and Russia that has added three international partners to the mix in October alone. 

Lin’s statement emphasized the peaceful nature of the proposed collaborations aboard Tiangong, noting that research and mutual benefit top the priority list.

  • A recent Pentagon report found that Beijing is using its space initiatives to strengthen relationships with its partners, and also that there is very little separation between civil and military priorities in orbit. (Required reading: this week’s Polaris.)

+ While we’re here: In the meantime, China is continuing to staff its heavenly palace with homegrown space explorers. CNSA launched Shenzhou 17—the sixth crewed mission to the station—yesterday, ferrying mission commander Tang Hongbo and crewmates Tang Shengjie and Jiang Xinlin to orbit.

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