China launches three astronauts to Tiangong space station | cosmic news

Astronauts will complete China’s first crewed handover in orbit aboard the Tiangong space station, state media said.

China’s Xinhua News Agency reported that China has launched the Shenzhou-15 spacecraft carrying three astronauts to the country’s space station, where it will complete the delivery of the country’s first crew in orbit.

The trio launched on Tuesday in a Long March-2F rocket at 11:08 p.m. (15:08 GMT) from the Jiuquan launch center in northwest China’s Gobi desert, Xinhua said, citing the agency. China Manned Space Administration (CMSA).

The agency said in a press conference on Monday that the team for the six-month mission was led by veteran Fei Junlong and two first-time astronauts, Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu.

Fei, 57, is returning to space after 17 years, having commanded the Shenzhou-6 mission in 2005.

His team will join three other astronauts on the Tiangong space station, who arrived in early June.

Tiangong has enough room to accommodate six astronauts at once, and delivery will take about a week. Previous missions to the space station took about 13 hours from takeoff to landing.

Anu Ojha, director of the UK’s National Space Academy, said the crew is currently catching up to the Tiangong space station.

“They’re doing a ‘fast rendezvous’, and this means they have to catch up to the space station, they have to dock at the space station,” Ojha told Al Jazeera.

“One of the reasons China is so proud and very confident about this… is that this is an important milestone,” he said.

“This is a new structure, new science laboratories, new capacity to be able to conduct all kinds of research in biomedical, pharmaceutical, materials science… without the influence of gravity, Ojha added. “That gives us new insights into all of these sciences.”

Main responsibility

“…The mission’s primary responsibilities were… to achieve the first crewed delivery in orbit, install… equipment and facilities inside and outside the space station, and conduct scientific experiments, “Ji Qiming, spokesman for CMSA said.

“During the stay, the crew of Shenzhou-15 will welcome the cargo ship Tianzhou-6 to visit and hand over [operations to] manned spacecraft Shenzhou-16 and is planning to return to China’s Dongfeng landing site in May next year.”

The Tiangong space station is a crown jewel in Beijing’s ambitious space program, which has landed rovers to Mars and the Moon, and made the country the third to send rovers. humans into orbit – as it looks set to catch up with the major spaceflight powers, the United States. and Russia.

Tiangong’s final module successfully connected to the core structure earlier this month, state media said, an important step towards its completion by the end of the year.

“I hope that China will announce the completion of construction during or at the end of the Shenzhou-15 mission,” said China’s independent space analyst Chen Lan.

China has been excluded from the International Space Station (ISS) since 2011, when the United States banned NASA from participating with the country.

Once completed, the Tiangong space station is expected to weigh 90 tons – about a quarter of the ISS – or be about the same size as the Soviet-built Mir station orbiting the Earth since the early years. 1980 until 2001.

Tiangong, which means “heavenly palace,” will operate for about a decade and hold numerous experiments in a near-gravity environment.

Next year, Beijing plans to launch the Xuntian space telescope with a field of view 350 times that of NASA’s Hubble space telescope.


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