China set to send 3 astronauts on longest crewed mission yet

BEIJING — China is getting ready to send three astronauts to reside on its area station for six months — a brand new milestone for a program that has superior quickly in recent times.

It will likely be China’s longest crewed area mission and set a file for essentially the most time spent in area by Chinese astronauts. The Shenzhou-13 spaceship is predicted to be launched into area on a Long March-2F rocket early Saturday morning from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on the sting of the Gobi Desert in northwestern China.

The first crew who served a 90-day mission aboard the principle Tianhe core module of the area station returned in mid-September.

The new crew has two veterans of area journey. Pilot Zhai Zhigang, 55, carried out China’s first spacewalk. Wang Yaping, 41, and the one girl on the mission, carried out experiments and led a science class in real-time whereas touring on considered one of China’s earlier experimental area stations. Ye Guangfu, 41, will likely be touring into area for the primary time.

The three later spoke to reporters by a glass barrier on the Jiuquan base, with Zhai saying the size of the mission can be a problem, however one he was assured they had been ready to meet.

“After almost two years of training (together), our crew members now know each other well and have a tacit understanding. I believe that with the power and wisdom of our team, (we) will definitely resolve all difficulties,” Zhai stated.

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Chinese astronauts, from left, Ye Guangfu, Zhai Zhigang and Wang Yaping wave to reporters as they arrive for a press conference at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center ahead of the Shenzhou-13 launch mission from Jiuquan in northwestern China, Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021.
In this picture launched by Xinhua News Agency, Chinese astronauts, from left, Ye Guangfu, Zhai Zhigang and Wang Yaping wave to reporters as they arrive for a press convention on the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center forward of the Shenzhou-13 launch mission from Jiuquan in northwestern China, Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021.
Ju Zhenhua/Xinhua through AP

Russian cosmonaut Valery Polyakov, who lived on Russia’s outdated Mir area station in 1994 and 1995, holds the file for the longest keep in area at greater than 14 months.

The mission is predicted to proceed the work of the preliminary crew, who performed two spacewalks, deployed a 10-meter (33-foot) mechanical arm, and held a video name with Chinese chief Xi Jinping.

China Manned Space Agency Deputy Director Lin Xiqiang stated the rocket was fueled and prepared to fly. “All systems conducting the Shenzhou-13 mission have undergone a comprehensive rehearsal. The flight crew is in good condition and our pre-launch preparations are in order,” Lin stated at a Thursday briefing.

The crew’s scheduled actions embody up to three spacewalks to set up tools in preparation for increasing the station, verifying residing circumstances within the module and conducting experiments in area drugs and different areas, Lin stated.

China’s navy, which runs the area program, has launched few particulars however says it would send a number of crews to the station over the following two years to make it totally useful. Shenzhou-13 would be the fifth mission, together with journeys with out crews to ship provides.

When accomplished with the addition of two extra modules — named Mengtian and Wentian — the station will weigh about 66 tons, a fraction of the dimensions of the International Space Station, which launched its first module in 1998 and can weigh round 450 tons when accomplished. Lin stated the 2 further modules can be despatched earlier than the tip of subsequent yr in the course of the keep of the yet-to-be-named Shenzhou-14 crew.

China was excluded from the International Space Station largely due to U.S. objections over the Chinese program’s secretive nature and shut navy ties. It made plans to construct its personal area stations within the early Nineteen Nineties and had two experimental modules earlier than beginning on the everlasting station.

U.S. regulation requires congressional approval for contact between the American and Chinese area applications, however China is cooperating with area specialists from international locations together with France, Sweden, Russia and Italy.

Lin stated China was increasing such cooperation, with Ye Guangfu having undergone coaching with the European Space Agency in 2016, and European astronauts collaborating in China’s sea survival coaching in 2017.

“We welcome astronauts from other countries entering our space station and conducting international cooperation,” Lin stated. “We believe that after the station enters the operation and utilization phase, more foreign astronauts will visit our station.”

Commenting on his time with the ESA, Ye known as it an unforgettable expertise that “made me realize that the exploration of the vast space and the construction of a home in space are a shared mission and pursuit for astronauts.”

“I look forward to the day when international colleagues can travel in space together (with us), and I welcome them to visit China’s space station,” Ye stated.

China has launched seven crewed missions with a complete of 14 astronauts aboard since 2003, when it grew to become solely the third nation after the previous Soviet Union and the United States to put an individual in area on its personal. Two Chinese astronauts have flown twice.

Along with its crewed missions, China has expanded its work on lunar and Mars exploration, together with putting a rover on the little-explored far facet of the Moon and returning lunar rocks to Earth for the primary time because the Seventies.

China this yr additionally landed its Tianwen-1 area probe on Mars, whose accompanying Zhurong rover has been exploring for proof of life on the pink planet.

Other applications name for gathering soil from an asteroid and convey again further lunar samples. China has additionally expressed an aspiration to land folks on the moon and probably construct a scientific base there, though no timeline has been proposed for such initiatives. A extremely secretive area aircraft can also be reportedly underneath growth.

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