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China successfully sends astronauts to its next space station


China successfully launched three astronauts into space on Thursday, putting the country one step away from completing its new space station.

China sends first astronauts to new space station 0:39

Hong Kong (CNN) -

China successfully launched three astronauts into space on Thursday, putting the country one step away from completing its next space station.

The Shenzhou-12 spacecraft, or divine vessel, was launched on a Long March-2F rocket on Thursday morning, from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert, northwest China.

The mission will take the crew to the central module of the planned space station, called the Tiangong or Heavenly Palace, which is still under construction in low Earth orbit.

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The spacecraft docked into the central module approximately six and a half hours after launch, according to state media CCTV.

The crew will remain in orbit for three months, during which the life support system and maintenance will be tested.

The Shenzhou-12 mission is the first with a crew and the third launch of a total of 11 launches for the construction of China's space station.

This is also China's first manned mission in nearly five years.

During the three months, two astronauts will go on two long-term spacewalks.

Following this mission, another three manned spacecraft and two laboratory modules will be sent to the space station, with the goal of completing its construction by the end of 2022.


Huang Weifen, one of the lead designers for the manned space program, said that during the mission, the crew will wear new spacewalk suits as well as a new spacecraft.

“The possibility of various problems is quite high.

Therefore, for astronauts, problem-solving ability and emergency decision-making are also very necessary requirements, ”Huang said.

A Long March-2F rocket carrying a crew of Chinese astronauts on a Shenzhou-12 spacecraft takes off at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, northwest China, on June 17, 2021.

A crew of three men

On Wednesday, the Chinese space agency announced the lineup of the three-man crew.

The mission is led by Nie Haisheng, the oldest member of the team and a former fighter pilot of the People's Liberation Army.

Drafted into the space program in 1998, Nie came close to becoming China's first man in space.

He was one of three astronauts proposed for the task, although Yang Liwei would eventually have that honor.

Monday's launch marks Nie's third trip into space, having been aboard China's first mission with more than one astronaut in 2005, and his 2013 mission to test its docking technology.

In a 2015 interview with CNN, Nie said he had named his daughter Tianxiang, which means "to fly in the sky."

When Nie turned 41, during his first mission to space, his daughter sang "happy birthday" to him from mission control.

Liu Boming, the second oldest member of the team, joined China's space mission in 2008, in which he helped Zhai Zhigang become the first Chinese astronaut to go on a spacewalk.

It is expected to play a crucial role during foreign cabin operations on this mission, according to Global Times, a state-run outlet.

The youngest member of the crew, Tang Hongbo, is the only one of the three who has yet to travel to space, despite 11 years of training, according to state media.

All three are members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the Global Times reported, noting that the duration of the mission coincides with the party's centennial, a major national event scheduled for July 1.

International space missions

The International Space Station (ISS) has hosted more than 200 astronauts from 19 different countries, but not from China.

Chinese astronauts are excluded from the ISS due to political objections and legislative restrictions from the United States, which is why China has long had the goal of building a station of its own.

Russia, a longtime contributor to the ISS, also abandoned the project and is now considering launching its own space station by 2030.

China's space program has expanded rapidly in the last decade;

In just the past seven months alone, the country's scientists have already successfully landed exploratory rovers on the Moon in December and on Mars in May.

In April, they successfully launched the first space station module.

The station will need to be assembled from various modules to be launched at different times.

If completed successfully, the station is expected to operate for 10 years.

Russia's departure from the ISS, China's space station, and the fact that the ISS will run out of funds in the coming years could signal the end of an unprecedented era of international cooperation in space.

But Zhou Jianping, chief designer of the country's manned space program, said on Thursday that while China is not considering the participation of foreign astronauts in this stage of the space station's development, non-Chinese astronauts will "certainly" be welcomed in years to come. to come.

"There are several countries that have expressed their desire to do so and we will be open to that in the future," Zhou said.

Echoing Zhou and other earlier statements by the Chinese government, Nie, the leader of the Shenzhou-12 mission, told CNN in 2015 that he was eager to work with other nations and that foreign astronauts would be welcome to visit the space station itself. from China.

"As an astronaut, I have a great desire to conduct space missions with astronauts from other countries," Nie said.

CNN's Ben Westcott and Steven Jiang contributed to this report.

Spacial station

Source: cnnespanol

All news articles on 2021-06-20

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