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Beijing holds annual gathering of space travellers

China’s ambitious space program keeps growing. Its space station, which is likely to serve as an outpost for other space faring nations, is slated to be completed by 2022. We speak to China’s first astronaut Yang Liwei at the opening of the 27th congress of the Association of Space Explorers‍.

Progressing steadily with caution are China’s strides into outer space. Yang Liwei, the first Chinese person sent to space is the deputy director of China’s Manned Space Engineering Office.

He says spacecrafts including the Tiangong 2 space lab, Tianzhou cargo spacecraft, and Changzheng 7 carrier rockets are entering into their crucial preparation stages. Astronauts and ground facilities have been in the works, setting the stage for their launch in 2016. Testing for the core module and two experiment modules, making up the foundation of the 60-ton space station. is underway. And with the Hainan launching site now complete, the countdown for takeoff begins.

“According to our three step strategy, Shenzhou 11 spacecraft and Tianzhou one cargo spacecraft can dock with the Tiangong 2 space lab after its launch in 2016. In 2018, we will launch a test module to experiment and approve the technology of the space station. And in 2022 we are expected to complete the construction of the space station. This will not only serve as a national-level experiment outpost for China, but for all space faring nations, particularly developing countries,” said Yang.

These are grand ambitions for China. With plans to internationalize the future space station, this year’s congress of Association of Space Explorers was held in China for the first time and aptly with a theme that promotes a collective cooperation toward space efforts.

“All of us have accomplished at least one orbit around the earth, we share our experience. one of the goal is to attract the young generation to science, to space, to technology,” said Dr. Dumitru Dorin Prunariu, Chairman of 27th Plenary Meeting of Association of Space Explorers‍.

The Association of Space Explorers aims to encourage international space efforts. The event held in Beijing saw also Chinese astronauts sharing their adventures of attempting to walk amidst zero gravity in space, and what it was like to be the country’s first female astronaut, from Liu Yang herself in person.

In the coming six days, space travellers will engage in open discussions on international cooperation and planning of human spaceflight. These exchanges will help to broaden perspectives and open doors to work together in the outer space.

Meanwhile, the first group of Chinese astronauts will soon retire and and numerous new recruits, including several women, will soon begin training. China also plans to offer training to astronauts from others countries.