China is sending three astronauts to its space station, which will now be permanently manned

China is sending three astronauts to its space station, which will now be permanently manned

The spacecraft for their Shenzhou-14 mission was powered by the Long March 2F rocket, which launched from the Jiuquan Launch Center in the Gobi Desert on June 5, 2022.

China goes one step further in its space conquest project. Three astronauts joined the station, which Beijing is building in orbit and should now be permanently occupied, on Sunday, June 5.

The Shenzhou-14 spacecraft was powered by the Long March-2F rocket, which launched at 10:44 (local time, 4:44 Paris time) from the Jiuquan launch center in the Gobi Desert (northwest). CCTV broadcast live footage from the launch. After about “seven-hour flight”, the vessel first docked with the space station, CCTV said. At around 20:50 (Beijing time), three astronauts finally entered the station’s main module, according to the space agency in charge of manned flights (CMSA).

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As Shenzhou-13 mission crew, returned in mid-April, the three astronauts are expected to stay on the space station for about six months. The crew includes 43-year-old Liu Yang, who was the first Chinese woman in space in 2012. She is accompanied by Chen Dong (43) and Cai Xuzhe (46), who completes her first flight into space after twelve years of preparation.

The station will be fully operational by the end of 2022

Liu Yang (center), 43, who was the first Chinese in space in 2012, is part of the Shenzhou-14 crew.  She is accompanied by Chen Dong (right, 43) and Cai Xuzhe (46).  They started on June 5, 2022 from the starting center in Jiuquan, China.

The main challenge for the Shenzhou-14 crew: reception and installation of two laboratory modules that will be anchored at the station. They will be released from Earth in July and October.

After the installation of these laboratory modules, the general structure of the station will take on a final T-shape. It will then resemble the old Russian Mir station, which the Soviet Union placed in orbit in 1986 and destroyed in 2001. and fifteen years.

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Named in Chinese “Tiangong” (“Heavenly Palace”), but also known as CSS (“Chinese Space Station” in French), it should be fully operational by the end of the year.

The Shenzhou-14 crew will also ascend into space, conduct a series of experiments and maintain Tiangong. New for this mission: for the first time, two Chinese crews in orbit pass the baton at the station. Towards the end of their stay, before returning to Earth, the three Shenzhou-14 astronauts will actually spend several days in orbit with their three colleagues from the future Shenzhou-15 mission.

Several acts in recent years

For decades, China has been investing billions of euros in its space program. The construction of its own station was pushed due to its exclusion from the International Space Station (ISS), while the United States banned NASA from cooperating with Beijing.

China sent its first astronaut into space in 2003 and has achieved several remarkable performances since then. Specifically, at the beginning of 2019, she placed the machine on the far side of the moon, a world first. In 2020, he brought samples from the Moon and completed Beidou, its satellite navigation system, a competitor of the American GPS.

In 2021, she landed on Mars with a small robot and plans to send men to the moon by 2030. In the long run, China plans to offer space tourism, said Zhou Jianping, conductor of the Chinese manned program, in March.

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World with AFP

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