China’s ‘space dream’: A Long March to the Moon and beyond

China successfully launched the final module of its Tiangong space station on Monday, inching closer to completion by the end of the year and a landmark moment in the country’s space ambitions.

The world’s second-largest economy has put billions into its military-run space programme, with hopes of eventually sending humans to the Moon.

China has come a long way in catching up with the United States and Russia, whose astronauts and cosmonauts have decades of experience in space exploration.

Here is a look at the country’s space programme, and where it is headed:

Mao’s vow

Soon after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, Chairman Mao Zedong pronounced: “We too will make satellites.”

It took more than a decade, but in 1970, China launched its first satellite on a Long March rocket.

Human spaceflight took decades longer, with Yang Liwei becoming the first Chinese “taikonaut” in 2003.

As the launch approached, concerns over the viability of the mission caused Beijing to cancel a live television broadcast at the last minute.

But it went smoothly, with Yang orbiting the Earth 14 times during a 21-hour flight aboard the Shenzhou 5.

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