Mega Spaceship: Is It Possible for China To build a Kilometre-Long Spacecraft?
BBC Focus - Science & Technology|November 2021
Buoyed on by its successful Moon missions, China has launched a five-year study to investigate the possibility of building the biggest-ever spacecraft
Dr Stuart Clark

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The Chinese space programme has been raising eyebrows again – this time because of its proposal to study how to build a large spacecraft, at least one kilometre in length.

To put that into perspective, the International Space Station (ISS) is just 109 metres across, yet it cost $150bn (£110bn approx) and took 30 missions over the course of a decade to build. China's proposal is for a spacecraft 10 times the size of the ISS. It may sound crazy, but don't make the mistake of dismissing it just yet.

“It's about ambition, long-term thinking and instilling a sense of purpose. Such long-haul thinking does not fit in well with shorter-term Western thinking, which might mistakenly dismiss this as propaganda,” explains space writer Brian Harvey, author of the book China In Space: The Great Leap Forward.

There is no doubt China has been making serious strides in space exploration recently. The country has returned lunar rock samples to Earth for analysis, making it the third country behind the US and Russia to do so; it has landed a rover on Mars, a feat that only the US had previously managed; and it has made the world's first landing on the far side of the Moon. On top of this, China is now building the Tiangong space station, which was inhabited for 90 days this year, and is designed to eventually rival the ISS.

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