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A mysterious Chinese space plane just returned to Earth after 9 months in orbit

Published May 9th, 2023 1:48PM EDT
space plane, x37-b
Image: Boeing / USAF

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After 276 days in orbit, a Chinese space plane has returned to Earth. The space plane was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China in August of 2022. The plane’s purpose is unknown, though Chinese state news agency Xinhua shared a statement saying that its experiment with the spacecraft was a success.

“The success of the experiment marks an important breakthrough in China’s research on reusable spacecraft technologies, which will provide more convenient and affordable round-trip methods for the peaceful use of space in the future,” Xinhua shared in an announcement.

The space plane, which is similar to the USAF space plane pictured above, is part of China’s ongoing plans to expand its reach into space. The country is also working on its own missions to the Moon, and its Zhurong rover recently discovered evidence of liquid water on Mars. However, the country hasn’t shared what it plans to do with this mysterious space plane.

usaf x-37B space plane is similar to china's space planeImage source: Boeing / USAF

China’s space plane is likely part of plans to create a reusable spacecraft that can carry out various missions in orbit around our planet. The spacecraft also released an unknown object into orbit in October, just a few months after its launch. The belief is the object was most likely a satellite of some kind.

The successful landing of this mysterious Chinese space plane is exciting for China, even though it may be worrying for other countries due to the secrecy that China is working with. However, this isn’t the first time a country has played coy about what it is doing in space. The USAF space plane, which is pictured above, is also a bit mysterious on its own.

Space planes like the X-37B and China’s own space plane may help pave the way for faster flights around the planet. NASA is also working on its own space plane, the X-59, which aims to make travel faster than the speed of sound possible.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.

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