Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

China has an ambitious new plan to build a space station in orbit by 2023.

Why it matters: The U.S. sees China as a rival in space, so any large undertaking like this one will be watched closely.

  • The space station also represents the evolution of China's space program, which made use of two smaller test stations in orbit that hosted crew before moving on to this more complex design.

Details: China plans to launch the first module of its new space station next year, with a total of 11 launches needed to complete the station by 2023, according to a report from SpaceNews.

  • The station is expected to eventually play host to crews of three astronauts aboard for six months who can perform experiments and other activities from orbit.
  • "It's quite possible that maybe even their first but probably their second or third crew for their space station will include a foreigner," Dean Cheng, a space analyst focusing on China at the Heritage Foundation, told Axios.
  • China is also planning to launch a telescope that will be able to dock to the station for maintenance, SpaceNews said.

What to watch: In mid-May, intact pieces of China's Long March 5 booster fell back to Earth, potentially putting people on the ground in Ivory Coast in danger and flouting norms among nations to safely de-orbit their spent rockets.

  • With a number of launches coming up, it remains to be seen whether China will start issuing warnings about where their rockets are coming down or find new ways to dispose of them safely.
  • It's also possible the crewed SpaceX launch could influence the burgeoning commercial space sector in China, according to Cheng.
  • "The Chinese are worried, not about Elon Musk per se, but they recognize that companies can do entrepreneurship way better than state-owned enterprises," Cheng said.

Go deeper

"Mighty mice" sent to space offer hope of maintaining muscle mass

The International Space Station over Earth. Photo: NASA via Getty Images

Genetically enhanced mice retained or increased muscle mass after spending a month on the International Space Station.

Why it matters: The findings of the study, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that muscle and bone loss could be mitigated for astronauts on space flights as well as for people on Earth who experience muscle degeneration.

Why China matters to the movie industry

Data: PwC Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2020–2024; Chart: Axios Visuals

Mainland China is expected to remain the second-largest global cinema market both in admissions terms and in box office revenue through 2024, per PwC.

The state of play: Prior to the pandemic, PwC estimated that China would overtake the U.S. box office this year. Mainland China already has the most movie screens of any country in the world and continues to grow despite the pandemic.

Debate commission co-chair: We don't expect moderators to fact-check candidates

Presidential Debate Commission co-chair Frank Fahrenkopf Jr. said Sunday he doesn't expect Fox News anchor Chris Wallace or any of the other moderators to fact-check President Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden at the debates.

What he's saying: "There's a vast difference between being a moderator in a debate and being a reporter who is interviewing someone." Fahrenkopf Jr. said on CNN's "Reliable Sources."