China Releases First Panoramic Pictures of Tiangun Space Station

China for the first time published panoramic images of its Space station “Tiangun”, demonstrating its full structure. The photographs were taken by the Shenzhou-16 astronaut before returning to Earth last month, emphasizing the significant milestone in the country’s space program, which began three decades ago.

Pictures reveal the expansive structure of the station, showcasing a 90-toned letter T with giant solar panels, the main robotic manipulator, and various other details, as well as an impressive view of the Earth’s surface in the background. The construction of “Tiangun” commenced in 2021 and was successfully completed last year.

A delegation from the Chinese National Cosmic Directorate presented the photos, taken by researcher and the first Chinese civil cosmonaut Guy Haichao, in Hong Kong on Tuesday.

The images display the symmetrical layout of the station, featuring the central Tianhe module with the Manchean and Wentyan laboratory modules on either side, each equipped with a pair of spacious 55-meter wide solar panels. The three modules were launched independently and assembled in orbit.

In addition, the photographs showcase the presence of the Shanzhou-17 spacecraft and the Tianzhou-6 cargo ship, both attached to the Tianhe module. Furthermore, a ten-meter robotic manipulator is positioned at the Wennyan module.

The Chinese space station weighs approximately 20% of the International Space Station (ISS), yet it possesses more than half of the experimental capabilities of the ISS, providing astronauts with a more spacious environment for their activities and living.

In the coming years, China intends to expand Tiangun into a six-module, cross-shaped structure, which will increase the station’s weight to 180 tons and double its capabilities in low near-Earth orbit. The station is currently in the development stage, which is expected to last at least 10 years.

Meanwhile, the operation of the ISS has been extended until 2030. NASA estimates that the decommissioning of the ISS could incur costs of up to $1 billion.

/Reports, release notes, official announcements.