For a long time, international astronauts and would-be space tourists had only one destination available in orbit, the International Space Station or ISS. Now there’s another one, China’s Heavenly Palace.
Interest in space travel surged in the early ‘20s, when SpaceX successfully delivered astronauts to the ISS using its reusable rockets, and promises of private flips to orbit and trips around the moon filled the Twittersphere. Now that private companies were in the human space flight business, surely almost any dream could be fulfilled?
As the second biggest gorilla on the global stage, China always had ambitions to be top-ranked, and in space too. With the successful development of their Long March 5B heavy-lift rocket, plans for a serious Chinese space station were accelerated, and the first module, called Tianhe 1, placed into orbit in 2021.
With typical speed, Tiangong or ‘Heavenly Palace’ was ready for its first astronaut sojourn within three years. As China’s economy and global influence boomed on earth, so did their presence in space, and the addition of expansion modules allows Tiangong to house eight people for up to six months. In keeping with China’s strengthening international links, astronauts from other space agencies were given access.
Now China has indicated that it’s willing to consider space tourists visiting their palace in the sky. Already equipped with international docking gates, the space station could be your out-of-this-world weekend getaway, if you can afford the space fare. SpaceX is happy to provide the ride.