Chinese netizens criticized billionaire Elon Musk on Tuesday after Beijing revealed that its space station had to maneuver to avoid colliding with two of its SpaceX satellites, a blow to the mogul’s reputation.
The Chinese space station Tiangong had to carry out “preventive controls to avoid collisions“during two” close encounters “with the starlink satellites from SpaceX in July and October, according to a document submitted by Beijing this month to the US space agency. UN.
On both occasions, the satellites entered orbits that forced the space station operators to change course, the document noted.
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Chinese social media users lashed out at Musk and his companies for the incidents, with one tag reaching 87 million views as of Tuesday morning, December 28.
In China, electric cars Tesla that the American billionaire’s company manufactures are widely accepted.
“How ironic that the Chinese buy Tesla (cars), putting up large sums of money so Musk can launch Starlink and then (almost) collide with China’s space station,” commented one user.
“Get ready to boycott Tesla,” said another, in a typical response in China to foreign brands seen as contrary to Beijing’s national interests.
Some speculated that Washington would have imposed sanctions had the papers been reversed.
“The maneuvering strategy was not known and orbital errors are difficult to assess,” Beijing said of the satellite involved in the October incident. He said he acted to “ensure the safety and lives of the astronauts.”
Tiangong, which means “heavenly palace,” is the latest achievement in China’s effort to become a space power, after landing a robot on Mars and sending probes to the Moon.
The station’s core module entered orbit months ago and should be fully operational by 2022.
California-based SpaceX did not initially respond to a request for comment.
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Evasive maneuvers become more frequent as more objects saturate the near-Earth orbit and force trajectory adjustments to avoid accidents, said Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
“We have really noticed an increase in the number of nearby passes since the Starlink began shipping,” he said, adding that a collision would “completely demolish” the space station and kill everyone on board.
Musk is admired in China but the reputation of Tesla, which sells tens of thousands of cars a month in the country, has waned after a series of accidents, scandals and concerns about data storage.