The Chinese space station, still under construction, is already occupied. The spaceship Shenzhou-12, with three taikonauts on board, was successfully docked this thursday with the Tianhe central module of the platform. It is the Asian giant’s first manned mission in nearly five years.
the rocket Long March 2F carrying the Shenzhou-12 (Divine Ship), bound for the module Tianhe took off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu Province in the northwest of the country. The docking took place almost seven hours later, when the astronauts were already entering the platform.
Shenzhou-12 It is the third of eleven missions, four of which will be manned, needed to complete China’s first space station. Construction began in April with the launch of Tianhe, the first and largest of the three modules.
the taikonauts Nie Haisheng, 56 years, Liu Boming, 54, and Tang Hongbo, 45, will work and remain in Tianhe, the home of the future space station, for three months. In the cylinder-shaped module, the three men will test the module’s technologies, including its life support system. It is expected to be fully operational by the end of next year.
Astronauts will also be monitored to see how they are doing physically and psychologically in space over an extended period of time. The next mission to the space station will take six months.
Nie, Liu and Tang
“This will be the first manned flight in the construction phase of the space station, and I am lucky to have the ‘first baton’‘”Nie Haisheng, mission commander and decorated pilot of the People’s Liberation Army, said the day before the launch.
“In our crew, eldest brother Nie is like the needle that calms the sea,” he said in turn. Liu Boming. Like Nie, he is a military man and belongs to the first group of astronauts selected in the 1990s for China’s space program. At the Shenzhou-7 mission in 2008, Liu used a crowbar to open the hatch after it resisted opening. “I’ve waited 11 years and I’m finally ready and I can contribute my strength,” Tang told reporters on Wednesday.
Former air force pilot Tang Hongbo, 45, belonged to a later group of astronauts and trained for more than a decade before being selected for his first spaceflight in Shenzhou-12. “I’ve waited 11 years and I’m finally ready and I can contribute my strength,” Tang told reporters on Wednesday.
Since 2003, China launched six manned missions and sent 11 taikonauts into space, including Zhai Zhigang, who led China’s first spacewalk on the 2008 Shenzhou mission. The program foresees a total of 11 launches, four of them manned, in order to complete the renovation of the Tiangong station, which will be smaller in size than the International Space Station.