Chinese astronauts enter Tiangong-1, but 4179 Toutatis is more intriguing

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The big news in space today: Chinese astronauts entered Tiangong-1 today, becoming the third nation to have a space station. A video of that in Chinese with music:

And for a video in English with some fairly awkward commentary, see this one:

A complete success so far, and very good news. More interesting for me, however, is the upcoming flyby of an asteroid known as 4179 Toutatis by Chang'e 2, which originally orbited the moon, then went off to a Lagrange point, and now has been sent off on its third task. This encounter will occur in January 2013, right after Toutatis flies fairly close by Earth in December 2012 at a distance of 7 million km. Toutatis is a fairly hefty asteroid for one that comes as close to us as it does, with a diameter of 4.5×2.4×1.9 km. That means that we've obtained a fairly detailed radar map of the asteroid already:

I have often written about the potential for up-and-coming spacefaring nations to contribute in new areas with missions to asteroids and minor planets, and this is a perfect example of where China is doing a good job at it.


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