Welcome to the Heavenly Palace

The accommodations are hardly palatial even by current space station standards, but China has taken a major step in advancing its space ambitions with the first crewed mission to its Tiangong-1  Space Station.  Although this is a short duration mission, and is intended to build the experience to lead towards a next generation  station, following a path much like Soviet Union pursued with its Salyut series stations, one wonders whether China will, like the  U.S.  and Russia, spend decades in low earth orbit building an incrementally larger station, or  instead begin deep space missions using essentially the hardware at hand.

A single station core also happens to make a very nice habitation module for long duration space missions to other destinations when the profile calls for a flyby rather than orbital capture.  While lacking the excitement (and the fuel demands ) of a landing and ascent, it is still a necessary component along the way. Currenly the only missing element  is a larger launch vehicle which is under development as the Long March 5. 

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