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The three Chinese astronauts on Shanghai 12 have arrived at the new space station

China has successfully launched the Shenzhou 12 spacecraft carrying 3 astronauts to begin the installation of the Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) permanent space station. In the next two years, 11 launches are expected, four of the spacecraft will be manned

Chinese astronauts (from left) Tang Hongbo, Ni Haisheng and Liu Boming are the first crew of China's space station. Photo: Xinhua
Chinese astronauts (from left) Tang Hongbo, Ni Haisheng and Liu Boming are the first crew of China's space station. Photo: Xinhua

China successfully launched three astronauts into space on Thursday, in the first manned mission to its Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) space station. The component that has already been launched into space in an unmanned flight is the core component of the space station.

The Shenzhou 12 spacecraft was launched aboard a Long March-F2 launcher on Thursday (17/6/2021) morning from the Jiuchuan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi desert in northwest China. The spacecraft docked in the core module about six and a half hours after launch, according to state media agency CGTN. The new crew will stay in orbit for three months, during which they will test the life support system and perform maintenance work.

After five years without a manned launch - four such are expected by the end of 2022

The Shenzhou 12 mission is the first of 11 launches intended to build China's space station. This is also China's first manned mission since 2016. During their three-month stay at the station, two of the astronauts will perform two long spacewalks. After that, three more manned spacecraft and two unmanned laboratory modules will be launched to the space station, with the goal of completing its construction by the end of 2022.

Huang Weifen, one of the chief planners of the manned space program, said that during the mission the crew will use new spacewalk suits as well as a new spacecraft. "Since this is equipment that has not yet been tested in space conditions, there is quite a chance of malfunctions, so the astronauts are required to make decisions in an emergency situation and the ability to solve problems are very critical requirements," Huang said.

"We believe that after the completion of the Chinese space station in the near future, we will see Chinese and foreign astronauts jointly participating in flights." Ji Qiming, a senior official at the Chinese Space Agency, said at the astronaut presentation ceremony.

Nine projects from 17 countries were selected for trials during the mission. Ji said the space station will be a "space laboratory that will benefit all mankind" and that China will work with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) to announce a second round of collaborative opportunities.

Ji said China has also received requests for joint flights with Chinese and foreign astronauts from "many countries and regions" and "we generally welcome that." 

The three crew members

A day before the launch, the Chinese Space Agency presented the identity of the three crew members. The team leader is Ni Yisheng, the oldest member of the team and a former fighter pilot in the Chinese military.

Ni, who was recruited into the space program in 1988, was close to becoming China's first man in space. He was one of three astronauts selected for the mission, but in the end Leng Liwei was honored. Instead he gets to be the first Chinese citizen to fly into space three times and break the record for the stay.

Thursday's launch will be Ni's third space flight, following China's first mission with more than one astronaut in 2005, and the 2013 mission to test its docking technology.

Liu Boming, the second oldest crew member, joined China's space mission in 2008, where he helped Zhai Zhigang become the first Chinese astronaut to perform a spacewalk. It is expected to play a critical role in extracellular activities in this mission

The third member of the team is the least experienced. Teng Hongbo, is the only one of the three who has not yet flown into space, despite training for 11 years, according to state media.

International space mission

As we have already reported, China is excluded from the International Space Station where more than 200 astronauts from 19 different countries have already flown. This is why China planned and started launching its own station. Russia, a longtime contributor to the International Space Station, is also about to withdraw from the project and is now considering its own space station to be launched by 2030.

More of the topic in Hayadan:

One response

  1. In China they are called
    Cosmonauts in Russia
    America astronauts

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