China launches first three men crew to its new space station in five years

The three astronauts are travelling in Shenzhou-12 spaceship which was launched by a Long March-2F Y12 rocket. They will carry out experiments, test equipment, conduct maintenance and will prepare the station for receiving two additional modules in 2022.

Created On: Jun 17, 2021 10:53 ISTModified On: Jun 17, 2021 10:53 IST
China's Human Spaceflight Mission

China successfully launched the first three men crew to its new space station in its first crewed mission in five years on June 17, 2021. The last human spaceflight by China was launched in 2016. 

The three astronauts are travelling in Shenzhou-12 spaceship which was launched by a Long March-2F Y12 rocket. It blasted off shortly after the target time of 9.22 am from the Jiuquan launch center in Northwestern China. 

Shenzhou-12, meaning ‘Divine Vessel’, will be the third of the 11 missions required to complete China’s Space Station by 2022.

Among them, 4 will be the missions with humans on board, potentially launching up to 12 Chinese astronauts into space- more than the 11 men and women that the country has sent since 2003.

The two veteran astronauts and one newcomer will be heading to Tianhe station for a three-month stay in its main living compartment. The astronauts will carry out experiments, they will test equipment, conduct maintenance, and will prepare the station for receiving two additional modules in 2022.

Shenzhou-12 to ferry three men: who are they?

According to the Director of China Manned Space Engineering Office and China’s first astronaut, Yang Liwei, the three men from China’s first and second group of astronauts will be on this mission.

The space bloggers have speculated that the astronauts will be Deng Qingming, 55, Nei Haisheng- who at 56 will be the oldest Chinese astronaut into space, and Ye Guangfu, 40.

The names of the mission’s crew are not typically announced by the authorities until near or after the launch.

Stay of Shenzhou-12 crew:

The crew of Shenzhou-12 is to live on the Tianhe, ‘Harmony of the Heavens’, a cylinder that is 16.6 meters long and 4.3 meters in diameter.

The planned three months stay of the astronauts during the Shenzhou-12 mission will also break China’s record of 30 days which was set by the 2016 mission. It was China’s last crewed flight carrying Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong to a prototype station.

 

Fun Fact: Who was the oldest human in Space?

John Glenn became the oldest human to be in space as he flew on the space shuttle at the age of 77 in 1998.

He was also the third American in space and the first American to orbit the Earth three times in 1962. After retiring from NASA, John Glenn served as a US Senator and was also a US Presidential Candidate.

Will there be women astronauts for China’s Shenzhou-12 mission?

While Yang Liwei informed that no women are scheduled for the Shenzhou-12 mission, he added that they are expected to participate in every following mission.

In 2011, two women, Wang Yaping and Liu Yang were selected among China’s second cohort, after the first batch of 14 men in the mid-1990s.

Liu Yang became China’s first woman in space in 2012, while Wang Yaping became the youngest to go into space at the age of 33 in 2013.

Absence of Chinese astronauts from International Space Station:

The Chinese astronauts have had a relatively low international profile. A law by the United States Government banning NASA from having any form of connection with China means that its astronauts have not been to the more-than-decade-old International Space Station (ISS), which is visited by more than 240 men and women of various nationalists.

China’s ambitious space station:

China began building its space station in April 2021 with the launch of Tianhe, the first and the largest of its three modules. In 2021, the country aims at sending a robotic cargo resupply spacecraft and three more astronauts for a six-month stay.

China, which aims at becoming a major spacefaring power by 2030, in May 2021 became the second country to put a rover on Mars, 2 years after landing the first spacecraft on the far side of the moon.

The Chinese Space Agency also plans to put astronauts on the moon.

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