The China Manned Space Agency announced that three astronauts have been dispatched on a six-month mission to complete work on the country’s permanent orbiting space station. The Shenzhou-14 crew will stay aboard the Tiangong station for six months, overseeing the integration of two laboratory modules into the main Tianhe living room, which was launched in April 2021.
Important Points about the Mission:
- A Long March-2F rocket carrying the spacecraft Shenzhou-14, or “Divine Vessel,” and its three astronauts took off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert in northwest China.
- Commander Chen Dong, 43, is leading the trip with fellow astronauts Liu Yang, 43, and Cai Xuzhe, 46. They will spend roughly 180 days on the space station, living and working there before returning to Earth in December.
- The space station would mark a key milestone in China’s three-decade-long crewed space programme, which was first approved in 1992.
- The completion of the construction, which is nearly a fifth of the mass of the International Space Station (ISS), is a source of pride for ordinary Chinese people and marks the end of President Xi Jinping‘s ten years as the ruling Communist Party’s leader.
- Liu, 43, is a space veteran who became China’s first female astronaut in space in 2012 on the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft. Cai, 46, is on his first voyage into space.
- They’ll also install equipment both inside and outside the space station, as well as conduct a variety of scientific experiments.
- The crew of the forthcoming Shenzhou-15 will join Chen, Liu, and Cai for three to five days at the end of their mission, marking the first time the station has had six people on board.
After the former Soviet Union and the United States, China’s space programme launched its first astronaut into orbit in 2003, making it only the third country to achieve so on its own.
- Last year, it landed robot rovers on the moon and sent one to Mars.
- China has also returned lunar samples, and officials have considered the possibility of a crewed lunar mission.
- The Communist Party’s military wing, the PLA, is in charge of China’s space programme.
- The People’s Liberation Army, the military wing of the Communist Party, is in charge of China’s space programme, forcing the US to remove it from the ISS.
- The space station is expected to last at least ten years.