Space: Three astronauts back at the Chinese space station

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Three Chinese astronauts left Sunday for the space station to be built in Beijing orbit, which will be fully operational by the end of the year.

Astronauts Chen Dong (center), Liu Yang (right) and Kai Shou (left) during a press conference, June 4, 2022.

Astronauts Chen Dong (center), Liu Yang (right) and Kai Shou (left) during a press conference, June 4, 2022.

AFP

The “new step” in China’s space conquest: Three astronauts set sail for the “Heavenly Palace” on Sunday, the station that will build on Beijing’s orbit and is now permanently occupied.

Their Shenzhou-14 mission spacecraft was launched by a Long March 2F rocket, which took off from the Jiuquan Launch Center in the Kobe Desert (northwest) at 10:44 am local time (4:44 am Swiss time). CCTV, a public broadcaster, aired live footage of the launch. A quarter of an hour later, an official with the space agency in charge of manned spacecraft (CMSA) announced the “success” of the launch.

Like the previous crew of the Shenzhou-13 mission that returned in mid-April, all three astronauts, including a woman, are expected to stay on the space station for about six months. Named the Chinese Heavenly Palace, but also known by its abbreviated CSS (“Chinese Space Station” in English), it is expected to be fully operational by the end of the year.

In particular, Liu Yang, 43, was the first Chinese woman (2012) to go into space. He is accompanied by Chen Dong (43) and Kai Suche (46) making their first flight into space after 12 years of production.

The main challenge for Shenzhou-14’s team is to obtain and install two new laboratory modules, which will be parked at the station. They will be launched from Earth in July and October. The latter will significantly increase the size and volume of the space station.

“After successfully docking the blocks, the crew must use a robotic hand to catch them, open them, rotate them 90 degrees and dock in another port,” said Go Laikonauts.com researcher Chen Lan, who specializes in Chinese space. Project.

“A real test”

These important procedures must be performed in conjunction with earth engineers. “China has never done such a complex operation before at the Mir and the International Space Station (ISS). It will be a real test for the team and the equipment, ”said Sen Lawn.

Once these laboratory modules are installed, the general structure of the station will have its final appearance, D-shaped. Then it will be the same size as the former Russian-Soviet Mir station. Its lifespan should be at least 10 years, otherwise 15 years. The Shenzhou-14 crew will conduct spacewalks, continuous experiments and maintain Tiangong.

New to the mission: For the first time, two Chinese teams cross a barricade around a train station. At the end of their stay, before returning to Earth, the three Shenjo-14 astronauts will actually spend a few days in orbit with their three colleagues from future Shenjo-15 missions.

“With Shenzhou-14, space travel with Chinese humans is taking a new step,” astronomer Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Astronomical Center told AFP. “In other words, from now on, the goal is to always have Chinese astronauts in space.”

Space Travel

China has been forced to build its own base due to its exclusion from the ISS as the United States has banned NASA from working with Beijing. The Asian giant has been investing billions of euros in its space program for decades. China sent its first astronaut into space in 2003. Since then, it has made some significant achievements, especially in recent years.

In early 2019, it placed a machine at a distance from the moon, which was the first in the world. In 2020, it brought back models from the moon and finalized its satellite navigation system, Pyto, to compete with US GPS.

In 2021, it landed a small robot on Mars and plans to send people to the moon by 2030. In the long run, China plans to offer space tourism, said Zhou Jianping, host of the Chinese drone program, in March.

(AFP)

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