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Uh oh: China reports ‘anomaly’ during cargo capsule launch test

Published May 7th, 2020 6:03PM EDT
china rocket launch
Image: NASA

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  • China’s cargo capsule test flight suffered an anomaly during its return to Earth.
  • The Chinese space agency launched its most powerful rocket this week, called the Long March 5B.
  • Eventually, China wants both a manned space station and trips to and from the Moon for its astronauts.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

It’s been a busy week for China’s space agency. The group finally got the chance to launch its Long March 5B rocket, which is the most powerful rocket the country has ever built. Early indications are that the launch itself was a success, which is great news for China especially in light of recent launch failures.

Still, the week hasn’t gone exactly as Chinese officials would have liked, as the country’s space authority reported what is being described as an “anomaly” with a cargo capsule that made its own trip skyward.

China is eager to speed up its push into space. The country has historically lagged behind the United States, Russia, and even some European countries when it comes to important space initiatives. But that’s all in the past now, and China has recently made some huge strides in space exploration.

The country broke new ground by becoming the first to perform a soft landing on the far side of the Moon, safely sending a lander and rover to the Moon’s backside. China’s space agency conducted some experiments and took a lot of really awesome photos of the landscape. It was a huge success and really demonstrated that China is serious about being a major player in space.

Eventually, China wants to send astronauts to the Moon, matching NASA’s newfound ambitions to return humans to the lunar surface by 2024. China probably won’t make it to the Moon for a while yet, but in the meantime, the country imagines a permanent space station akin to the International Space Station that it can ferry its own astronauts to and from whenever it wants.

The cargo capsule that suffered the “anomaly” during testing is one small piece of that larger puzzle. Just as the ISS regularly receives shipments of supplies and experiments from Earth, China’s space station would need similar supply runs. The China Manned Space Agency revealed that “an anomaly occurred today during the return” of the capsule to Earth. The only other information the agency shared was that its “experts are currently analysing the data.”

China is hoping to have its space station pieced together by 2022. Once that spacecraft launches, the country will need to safely and efficiently send both humans and cargo to and from orbit. Ultimately, an anomaly with the cargo capsule is a minor thing at this stage, so we’ll have to assume the country will iron out the kinks by the time it really matters.

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