By Elton Gomes
Pakistan announced that it would be sending an astronaut to space for the first time in 2022 with China’s help, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Thursday.
The year 2022 could also see India sending its first astronaut to space. In his Independence Day address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an ambitious mission of sending an Indian astronaut to space by 2022. If India succeeds in its mission, it would be the fourth nation in the world to send its astronauts to space.
“We have resolved that by 2022, when India celebrates 75 years of Independence or maybe even before that, certainly some of our young boys and girls will unfurl the Tricolour in space,” PM Modi said in his speech, as per a PTI report.
What is Pakistan planning
Pakistan’s maiden space mission has been planned for 2022. The federal Cabinet meeting, which was chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, has approved the plan, as reported by Pakistani newspaper The News.
China helps Pakistan in launching two satellites
Earlier in 2018, China helped Pakistan in launching two indigenously built satellites into orbit. The satellites were launched onboard a Chinese Long March (LM-2C) rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre located at the Gobi desert, China. One of the satellites launched was a remote sensing satellite, which was used as an Earth observational and optical satellite.
The second test satellite launched was a PAK-TES-1A. This satellite was developed by Space and Upper Atmospheric Research Commission (Suparco) to enhance Pakistan’s satellite manufacturing capabilities, which in turn would help end its dependency on commercial satellites for information related to weather, environment, and agriculture.
Chinese and Pakistani engineers have cooperated closely in the development of the satellite. Chinese space experts also assisted in train technologists from Pakistan on its operations.
Deepening China-Pakistan ties
Both China and Pakistan have maintained a cordial relationship since a long time. The two became allies in 1950, when Pakistan recognized the People’s Republic of China.
China has provided extensive support to Pakistan in the economic, military, and technical spheres. China has also given Pakistan a loan worth $60 million. In addition, both countries have signed a free trade agreement in 2008, and Islamabad remains one of the top buyers of Chinese military hardware.
Pakistan’s announcement to send an astronaut to space comes before its PM Imran Khan is set to visit China on November 03, 2018, to discuss the bilateral relationship between the two countries. After his visit to Beijing, Khan will reportedly visit Shanghai to participate in the First China International Import Expo in Shanghai.
The two countries have been very supportive of each other on several topics, including border dialogues. China’s assistance in Pakistan’s space program is a reiteration of deepening ties between the nations.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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