China has successfully launched the first three men crew to the country’s Tiangong space station in its first crewed mission in five years on June 17, 2021.
- Shenzhou-12 spaceship was launched by a Long March-2F Y12 rocket which blasted off shortly after the target time of 9.22 am from the Jiuquan launch center in Northwestern China.
- The last human spaceflight by China was launched in 2016.
- Shenzhou-12, meaning ‘Divine Vessel’, will be the third of the 11 missions required to complete China’s Space Station by 2022.
- The astronauts are being sent for a three-month stay aboard the core module, to see how the men handle their relatively long time in orbit.
- 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.
- The mission is the latest stage in China’s ambitious plans to be the only country to own and run its own space station, expected to be completed less than two years from now.
The three astronauts – Nie Haisheng, 56, Liu Boming 54, and Tang Hongbo, 45, travelled in Shenzhou-12 spaceship which was launched by a Long March-2F Y12 rocket.
Shenzhou-12 spacecraft docked with Tianhe, the main section of the Tiangong station, hours after blasting off from the Gobi Desert in northwest China.
The team expected to be on Tiangong for three months.
The astronauts will carry out experiments; they will test equipment, conduct maintenance, and will prepare the station for receiving two additional modules in 2022.
The Shenzhou-12 is made up of three sections – an orbiter module, a return module, and a propelling module, and has 14 sub-systems onboard.
Chinese Women in Space:
- 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.
China’s ambitious space station:
- China aims at becoming a major space faring power by 2030.
- China began building its space station in April 2021 with the launch of Tianhe, the first and the largest of its three modules.
- The country aims at sending a robotic cargo resupply spacecraft and three more astronauts for a six-month stay.
- 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.
- Chinese astronauts have had a comparatively low international profile.
- US legislation bars NASA from any cooperation with China, and Chinese astronauts have not been to the more than two-decade-old International Space Station (ISS), which has been visited by more than 240 men and women of various nationalities.
- The ISS may be decommissioned in 2024 if the project does not receive new funding, and China could end up being the operator of the only space station in Earth’s orbit.