Thanks to the 2,666 satellites that are currently orbiting Earth, humanity is gathering precious info about our planet and its place in the Universe. As satellites can also monitor what happens on the ground, a photo took by one of them reveals a space plane landing on a western location from China.
The San Francisco-based company Planet is the lucky one that took the shot at the space plane.
Uncrewed vehicle launched by China
Jonathan McDowell, who is an astronomer with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, emphasizes the idea that the photo suggests that China has launched and landed a small and uncrewed vehicle.
Ground track of Chinese reusable spacecraft passes over airbase near Lop Nor nuclear test site at Sep 6 0155 UTC, consistent with probable landing time. pic.twitter.com/resjPEb6Qr
— Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) September 6, 2020
McDowell also declared:
The information sort of all hangs together now that this was a test of something, probably a space plane, that made a winged reentry and landed on the runway,
The U.S. military picked up the new spacecraft from the tracking network, and its orbit was quickly plotted. McDowell and others found that China’s craft passed over a secretive military facility in an area called Lop Nur.
Brian Weeden, the director of program planning for the Secure World Foundation, answered to why might China be getting into space planes:
It’s a great question,
We’re not even really sure why the U.S. military is pursuing a space plane.
But just so that things will become even more weirder, the area Lop Nur that the new craft passed over is a place where China has been once testing nuclear weapons.
China launched in July the Tianwen-1 interplanetary mission to Mars. Thus, the China National Space Administration sent a robotic spacecraft towards Mars, which consists of an orbiter, a lander, and a rover. Mars is perhaps the most important space destination for astronomers right now, and it may continue in the same way until humanity will be colonizing it.