Pakistan appears to be entering a space race with India.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said Pakistan will send a human to space for the first time in 2022, with China’s help.
The announcement comes just two months after India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, revealed plans to mark 75 years of the nation’s independence with a manned mission into orbit using the same timeline.
Pakistan is building closer ties with China, as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project pushes forward. Pakistan’s Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) is partnering with China’s manned space program for the mission.
Earlier this year, the two nations cooperated on a launch in the Gobi Desert of a Chinese Long March rocket carrying two satellites manufactured in Pakistan.
Neighbouring India is promoting itself as a low-cost provider of rocket launch services for homegrown and overseas satellite projects.
Over the past decade, an increasing number of Indian-built rockets have lifted off from domestic launch sites, such as the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in the state of Andhra Pradesh, carrying satellites into Earth’s orbit.
India regularly launches satellites for other countries including the US, Canada, the UK, Germany and Singapore. In 2017, India propelled more satellites into space than any other nation, mainly as a result of carrying high numbers of lightweight US micro satellites together on a single rocket.
Out of this world
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) put a man into orbit aboard a Soviet mission in 1984. The ISRO has also sent missions to Mars and plans to reach the Moon’s south pole in 2019, breaking new ground.
With a reported budget of $1.4 billion, India’s planned 2022 liftoff aims to send a crew of three astronauts on a seven-day orbit of Earth.
If the mission is successful, India will become only the fourth country in the world to independently develop a manned space flight, following in the footsteps of the former Soviet Union, US and China.