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China’s space station to house more int’l cooperation

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China’s successful launch of the core module of its first space station will strengthen international space cooperation, said experts from various countries.

China on Thursday sent into space the core module of its space station Tiangong, meaning Heavenly Palace, kicking off a series of key launch missions that aim to complete the construction of the station by the end of next year.

Michel Tognini, deputy head of the European Astronaut Centre (EAC), who is also a former astronaut of France, said it was a key step for China to launch the core module and the Chinese space station will also open a new foothold for the country’s exploration in space.

“I congratulate China. I congratulate the Chinese space system. This is a very important launch. China will have a permanent in-orbit space station. This will not only allow China to send astronauts into space frequently, but also allow the long stay of astronauts for space operations such as extra-vehicular maintenance, extra-vehicular research, robotic projects and practicing long flights. This is very good. It’s good preparation for building a space station on the moon in the future, or even landing on the moon,” said Tognini.

Keith Cowing, an astrobiologist and former employee of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) also spoke highly of China’s space station project.

“It will have multiple modules, it’ll have cargo spacecraft, it’ll have scientific…, it’ll have everything that the international space station has. The fact that it was launched as flawlessly as it was and is operating perfectly, I think bodes well for every other launch that will follow,” said Cowing.

Experts believe the project will bring extensive benefits to all mankind as China has always carried out international exchanges and cooperation with an open attitude.

“Every country hopes to take a step forward in the field of outer space. Therefore, international cooperation in this field should not be only among the great powers. So I think it is totally correct for China’s space station project to be open to all countries,” said Aleksandr Pavlovich Aleksandrov, Russian aerospace expert and former Soviet cosmonaut.

Roberto Battiston, former president of the Italian Space Agency (ASI), noted with such a high-level space station plan, China demonstrates its vital role in the peaceful and rational use of space.

China’s space station is a large-scale project that allows Chinese astronauts to stay in space for a long time. Like the former Soviet Union, the United States, and later the International Space Station with the participation of Europe, Canada and Japan, it has an extremely high level of technology that allows a country to plan its next steps, which is to realize the long stay of humans in space, and to go to the Moon and even to other planets like Mars,” noted Battiston.

“Space is a common asset of mankind. China is playing a vital role in this regard. China and Italy will continue to conduct high-energy cosmic ray detection on the Chinese space station, which will set a good example of conducting global scientific research. This kind of scientific research can only be achieved through the cooperation of scientists from all countries,” he added.

For developing countries, Nyameko Royi, senior engineer at the African Space Innovation Centre (ASIC), lauds China’s contribution to promoting the exploration of space in those nations.

“Previously, it was only Europe and America, and maybe Russia to a certain extent, that had a footprint on the International Space Station, and then also they had just rooms in there. Now with China now going this route, developing nations also might have their own room,” said Royi.

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China to release results of once-in-a-decade census on May 11

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China is expected to release the results of its once-in-a-decade census conducted late last year on May 11, according to a notice from the State Council Information Office.

Officials from the census and statistics bureaus will brief the media on the census results on May 11, the State Council Information Office said in a notice on Sunday.

The National Bureau of Statistics said previously that the results would be released at a media briefing scheduled for early April. It later said the announcement had been delayed, as more preparatory work needed to be done.

 

(Reporting by Ryan Woo, Hallie Gu and Xiao Han; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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Afghan school blast toll rises to 58, families bury victims

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The death toll from an explosion outside a school in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul has risen to 58, Afghan officials said on Sunday, with doctors struggling to provide medical care to at least 150 injured.

The bombing on Saturday evening shook the city’s Shi’ite Muslim neighbourhood of Dasht-e-Barchi. The community, a religious minority in Afghanistan, has been targeted in the past by Islamic State militants, a Sunni militant group.

An eyewitness told Reuters all but seven or eight of the victims were schoolgirls going home after finishing studies.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday blamed the attack on Taliban insurgents but a spokesman for the Taliban denied involvement, saying the group condemns any attacks on Afghan civilians.

Families of the victims blamed the Afghan government and Western powers for failing to put an end to violence and the ongoing war.

Bodies were still being collected from morgues as the first burials were conducted in the west of the city. Some families were still searching for missing relatives on Sunday, gathering outside hospitals to read names posted on the walls, and checking morgues.

“The entire night we carried bodies of young girls and boys to a graveyard and prayed for everyone wounded in the attack,” said Mohammed Reza Ali, who has been helping families of the victims at a private hospital.

“Why not just kill all of us to put and end to this war?” he said.

The violence comes a week after remaining U.S. and NATO troops began exiting Afghanistan, with a mission to complete the drawdown by September 11, which will mark the end of America’s longest war.

But the foreign troop withdrawal has led a surge in fighting between Afghan security forces and Taliban insurgents with both sides trying to retain control over strategic centres.

(Reporting by Kabul bureau, Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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Chinese rocket debris lands in Indian Ocean, draws criticism from NASA

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By Ryan Woo

BEIJING (Reuters) -Remnants of China’s biggest rocket landed in the Indian Ocean on Sunday, with most of its components destroyed upon re-entry into the atmosphere, ending days of speculation over where the debris would hit but drawing U.S. criticism over lack of transparency.

The coordinates given by Chinese state media, citing the China Manned Space Engineering Office, put the point of impact in the ocean, west of the Maldives archipelago.

Debris from the Long March 5B has had some people looking warily skyward since it blasted off from China’s Hainan island on April 29, but the China Manned Space Engineering Office said most of the debris was burnt up in the atmosphere.

State media reported parts of the rocket re-entered the atmosphere at 10:24 a.m. Beijing time (0224 GMT) and landed at a location with the coordinates of longitude 72.47 degrees east and latitude 2.65 degrees north.

The U.S. Space command confirmed the re-entry of the rocket over the Arabian Peninsula, but said it was unknown if the debris impacted land or water.

“The exact location of the impact and the span of debris, both of which are unknown at this time, will not be released by U.S. Space Command,” it said in a statement on its website.

The Long March was the second deployment of the 5B variant since its maiden flight in May 2020. Last year, pieces from the first Long March 5B fell on Ivory Coast, damaging several buildings. No injuries were reported.

“Spacefaring nations must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth of re-entries of space objects and maximize transparency regarding those operations,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, a former senator and astronaut who was picked for the role in March, said in a statement after the re-entry.

“It is clear that China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris.”

ANXIETY OVER POTENTIAL DEBRIS ZONE

With most of the Earth’s surface covered by water, the odds of populated area on land being hit had been low, and the likelihood of injuries even lower, according to experts.

But uncertainty over the rocket’s orbital decay and China’s failure to issue stronger reassurances in the run-up to the re-entry fuelled anxiety.

“It is critical that China and all spacefaring nations and commercial entities act responsibly and transparently in space to ensure the safety, stability, security, and long-term sustainability of outer space activities,” Nelson said.

Harvard-based astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell told Reuters that the potential debris zone could have been as far north as New York, Madrid or Beijing, and as far south as southern Chile and Wellington, New Zealand.

Since large chunks of the NASA space station Skylab fell from orbit in July 1979 and landed in Australia, most countries have sought to avoid such uncontrolled re-entries through their spacecraft design, McDowell said.

“It makes the Chinese rocket designers look lazy that they didn’t address this,” said McDowell.

The Global Times, a Chinese tabloid, dismissed as “Western hype” concerns the rocket was “out of control” and could cause damage.

“It is common practice across the world for upper stages of rockets to burn up while reentering the atmosphere,” Wang Wenbin, a spokesman at China’s foreign ministry, said at a regular media briefing on May 7.

“To my knowledge, the upper stage of this rocket has been deactivated, which means most of its parts will burn up upon re-entry, making the likelihood of damage to aviation or ground facilities and activities extremely low,” Wang said at the time.

The rocket, which put into orbit an unmanned Tianhe module containing what will become living quarters for three crew on a permanent Chinese space station, will be followed by 10 more missions to complete the station by 2022.

(Reporting by Ryan Woo, Hallie Gu and Xiao Han in Beijing and Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Himani Sarkar & Simon Cameron-Moore)

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