New crew docks at China’s first permanent space station: NPR


A screen image captured at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center in Beijing on Saturday shows Chinese astronauts Ye Guangfu (left to right), Zhai Zhigang and Wang Yaping saluting after entering the Chinese space station.

Tian Dingyu / Xinhua via AP


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Tian Dingyu / Xinhua via AP


A screen image captured at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center in Beijing on Saturday shows Chinese astronauts Ye Guangfu (left to right), Zhai Zhigang and Wang Yaping saluting after entering the Chinese space station.

Tian Dingyu / Xinhua via AP

BEIJING – Chinese astronauts began their six-month mission to China’s first permanent space station on Saturday, after successfully docking their spacecraft.

The astronauts, two men and a woman, were seen floating around the module before speaking via a live video broadcast.

The new crew includes Wang Yaping, 41, who is the first Chinese woman to board the Tiangong space station, and is expected to become the first woman to walk in space in China.

“We will cooperate with each other, carefully conduct maneuvers and try to complete all tasks successfully in this cycle of exploring the universe,” Wang said in the video.

The Shenzhou-13 space traveler spacecraft was launched by a Long March-2F rocket at 12:23 a.m. on Saturday and docked at the space station’s Tianhe central module at 6:56 a.m.

The three astronauts entered the central module of the station around 10 a.m., the Chinese Manned Space Agency said.

They are the second crew to enter China’s Tiangong space station, which launched last April. The first crew stayed for three months.

The new crew includes two space travel veterans – Zhai Zhigang, 55, and Wang. The third member, Ye Guangfu, 41, is on his first trip to space.

The launch of the mission was seen by a military band and supporters chanting “Ode to the Fatherland,” underscoring national pride in the space program, which has grown rapidly in recent years.

The crew will conduct three spacewalks to set up equipment for the station expansion, assess living conditions in the Tianhe module, and conduct experiments in space medicine and other fields.

China’s military-led space program plans to send several crews to the station over the next two years to make it fully functional.

When completed with the addition of two more sections – named Mengtian and Wentian – the station will weigh around 66 tonnes, much smaller than the International Space Station, which launched its first module in 1998 and weighs around 450 tonnes.

Two more Chinese modules are expected to be launched before the end of next year during the stay of the crew of the Shenzhou-14, which has yet to be named.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Friday renewed its commitment to cooperate with other countries in the peaceful use of space.

Spokesman Zhao Lijian said sending humans into space was a “common cause of humanity.” China would “continue to expand the depth and breadth of international cooperation and exchange” in crewed space flights and “make positive contributions to the exploration of the mysteries of the universe,” he said. .

China was excluded from the International Space Station in large part due to US objections to the secret nature of the Chinese program and its close military ties, prompting it to launch two experimental modules before starting on the permanent station.

This combination of screen images captured at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center shows the Chinese Shenzhou-13 crewed spacecraft docked at the Chinese space station.

Tian Dingyu / Xinhua via AP


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Tian Dingyu / Xinhua via AP

U.S. law requires congressional approval for contacts between U.S. and Chinese space programs, but China is cooperating with space experts from other countries, including France, Sweden, Russia, and Italy. Chinese officials have said they look forward to welcoming astronauts from other countries aboard the space station once it becomes fully functional.

China has launched seven crewed missions with a total of 14 astronauts on board – two have flown twice – since 2003, when it became the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to send a person in the space.

China has also extended its work on lunar and Martian exploration, including landing a rover on the far side of the moon, little explored, and returning moon rocks to Earth for the first time since the 1970s.

This year, China also landed its Tianwen-1 space probe on Mars, whose accompanying Zhurong rover explored evidence of life on the Red Planet.

Other Chinese space programs call for collecting soil from an asteroid and bringing back additional lunar samples. China has also expressed its aspiration to send people to the moon and possibly build a scientific base there, although no timeline has been proposed for such projects. A highly secret space plane is also reportedly in development.



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