Chinese citizens slam Musk online after space station near-misses

Chinese citizens battled billionaire Tesla founder Elon Musk’s space ambitions online Monday after China complained that its space station was forced to take evasive action to avoid colliding with satellites launched by Musk’s Starlink program.

The satellites from Starlink Internet Services, a division of Musk SpaceX The aerospace company had two “close encounters” with the Chinese space station on July 1 and October 21, according to a document China submitted to the UN space agency earlier this month.

“For safety reasons, the Chinese space station has implemented a preventive collision avoidance control,” says a document published on the ISS website United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.

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The complaints were not independently examined. SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a post on China’s Twitter-like microblogging platform Weibo on Monday, one user said Starlink’s satellites were “just a pile of space junk” while another referred to them as “American space war weapons.”

With nearly 30,000 satellites and other debris believed to be orbiting the planet, scientists have urged governments to share data to reduce the risk of catastrophic space collisions.

SpaceX alone has deployed nearly 1,900 satellites to power its Starlink broadband network and is planning more.

“Starlink’s risks are gradually being uncovered, all of humanity will pay for their business activities,” said a user by the name of Chen Haiying on Weibo.

The US space agency NASA had to abruptly cancel a spacewalk at the end of November because it pointed out the dangers of space debris. Musk tweeted in response that the orbits of some Starlink satellites were being adjusted to reduce the possibility of collisions.

China began building the space station in April with the launch of Tianhe, the largest of its three modules. The station is expected to be completed by the end of 2022 after four manned missions.

Musk has become a household name in China, despite Tesla’s electric vehicle business coming under increasing scrutiny by regulators, especially after a customer climbed on a Tesla car at the April Shanghai auto show to counter poor customer service protest.

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