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This morning, China’s Tianwen-1 Mars rover successfully launched from the Wenchang spaceport on Hainan Island at 12:40 local time (04:40 GMT). The six-wheeled robot, encapsulated in a protective probe, was lifted off Earth by a Long March 5 rocket and should arrive in orbit around the Red Planet in February 2021. So far, only the US has managed to run long-lived operations on Mars, but China will take confidence from the successes of its two recent Chang’e Yutu lunar rovers, the second of which made the first-ever soft-landing on the far side of the Moon last year.
It comes as the communist state has made huge leaps forward in space capabilities after watching the US and the Soviet Union dominate the cosmos for decades during the Cold War.
But YouTube channel ‘Primal Space’ revealed how it has done so independently, pouring billions into its military-led space programme, after being shunned by the US from joining the ISS and later forbidden from working with NASA.
Presenter Beau Stucki said in February: “In November 1998, the first module of the International Space Station was launched into orbit.
“Over the last two decades, it has been home to hundreds of astronauts from 19 different countries.
“This enormous collaboration between different nations shows just how much can be achieved when the world comes together.
“However, not every nation is allowed to take part in the ISS programme – China has never taken part and since 2011 they were officially banned from doing so.
“At the time, the Chinese Space Administration was only five years old and the rest of the nations felt that China was simply not ready to make a meaningful contribution to the project.”
But, the series went on to reveal how the US took further action to ban collaborations with Beijing.
Mr Stucki added: “So China ploughed forward with their own space programme, and in 2003, it became the only nation other than the US and Russia to launch a human into space.
“As progress continued on the ISS, China stated its desire to join the ISS as a new member.
“However, legislation introduced by the US Congress in 2011 eliminated the possibility of China joining the ISS.
“In this legislation, a provision is known as the “Wolf Amendment” was passed to forbid NASA and US companies from sharing technological advancements with the Chinese government.
“Although this may seem like a harsh decision, America’s distrust in China was not completely unfounded.”
The series went on to reveal how China had reportedly made moves against US space programmes raising security fears of working with Xi Jinping’s government.
Mr Stucki added: “In 2007, China deployed an anti-satellite weapon to destroy one of its own weather satellites.
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“This received worldwide criticism for the dangerous amounts of space debris it caused.
“A decade later, two Chinese nationals were charged by the US Department of Justice for allegedly hacking information from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“Despite being banned from the ISS, China continues to rapidly advance their space program.”
Mr Stucki went on to detail how China gave up hope of working with the US and initiated its own plans to launch a space station in 2021.
He continued: “In 2011, they launched a space station known as Tiangong 1, which was soon followed in 2016 by Tiangong 2 and, in 2019, China became the first nation ever to successfully land a spacecraft on the far side of the Moon.
“The final form of the Chinese Space Station will be one-fifth the size of the ISS and is expected to be completed by 2023.
“While the United States remains against the idea of a Chinese collaboration, other space agencies are not so keen to avoid partnership.
“The European Space Agency has been clear about their willingness to let China into the ISS and countries such as Italy have even agreed to collaborate with China on future manned-space flight missions.”
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