This article was originally published at The Conversation. (opens in new tab) The publication contributed the article to's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights. Dr. Eytan Tepper (opens in new tab) is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Indiana University Bloomington, affiliated with the Ostrom Workshop founded by Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom. There he established and serves as inaugural Director of the Space Governance Lab. .

Scott J. Shackelford is a professor in the Kelley School of Business at the Indiana University.

Humans can still live in the space station.

The Chinese word for astronauts is taiko, which means three in Chinese. They arrived at China's recently completed space station, called Tiangong, six hours later. The existing crew was replaced by the taikonauts. China has become the third country to operate a permanent space station.

China is one of the top three space powers along with the US and Russia. As scholars of space law and space policy, we have been following the development of the Chinese space station with interest.

The International Space Station is run by the U.S. The opening of the station was a success. The station shows the country's policy of self-reliance and is an important step for China to achieve larger space ambitions.

China could expand its space station.

Capabilities of a Chinese station

Thirty years of work on the Chinese manned space program culminated in the creation of the Tiangong space station. The station is composed of three modules that were launched separately and connected in space. There is one core module where a maximum of six taikonauts can live and two experiment modules for a total of 3,884 square feet of space. The station has an external robotic arm that can support activities and experiments outside of the station.

It is similar to the Soviet Mir space station from the 1980s and is based on a Soviet-era design. The station has been upgraded.

Two crewed missions and two cargo missions will be sent to the Chinese space station every year. There is a planned study of monkey reproduction in the station's biological test cabinets. It's not clear whether the monkeys will cooperate.

Science and a steppingstone

Research on life in space is one of the main functions of the station. More than 1,000 experiments are planned for the next 10 years to learn about the growth and development of animals and plants.

Plants grown in space are undergoing analysis.

China has an open invitation for other nations to work on experiments on Tiangong. Nine projects from 17 countries have been chosen.

The new station is small compared to the International Space Station, but it will support China's future space missions. The Xuntian space telescope will be launched in December of 2023. The resolution of the telescope is similar to the Hubble Space Telescope but with a wider view. Occasionally, the telescope will dock with the station.

The goal of the Chinese missions is to bring samples back to Earth. China and Russia are planning to build a joint moon base, though no timetable has been set.

A Long March 5B rocket carrying the Mengtian module for China's Tiangong space station rolls out to the launch pad on Oct. 25, 2022.

A Long March 5B rocket carrying the Mengtian module for China's Tiangong space station rolls out to the launch pad on Oct. 25, 2022. (Image credit: OurSpace)


There is a new era going on. The International Space Station, which has been in space for more than 30 years, is set to be dismantled by the year 2030.

At the height of the Cold War, the U.S. and the Soviet Union collaborated to create the International Space Station. China and the U.S. have not been very friendly with each other.

Concerns were raised that China was stealing U.S. technology when it was still launching U.S. satellites into space. The Wolf Amendment was passed by Congress in order to prohibit NASA from collaborating with China. The International Space Station was not built because China's space program was too young. The Wolf Amendment made it impossible for China to contribute to the International Space Station.

The map of space collaboration will change over time. Nineteen countries have joined the Artemis program so far, and it is open to all nations. China and Russia have opened their moon mission to other countries. This was partly driven by cooling Chinese-Russian relations but also due to the fact that the European Space Agency canceled planned missions with Russia because of the war in Ukraine.

As tensions on Earth rise between China, Russia and the West, and some of that jockeying spills over into space, it remains to be seen how the China-U.S. relationship will be affected.

Collaboration between the U.S. and China could help cool tensions on and above the Earth.

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