Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Official: Chinese astronauts go to space station next month

By PTI

BEIJING: A crew of three-member male astronauts will blow up next month for a three-month mission to China’s new space station, according to a space official who was the country’s first astronaut in orbit.

The comments from Yang Liwei, the manned space program’s deputy chief designer, to state television came when an automated spacecraft was launched with fuel and supplies for the Tianhe station.

Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony, is the third and largest space station launched by China’s increasingly ambitious space program. Its core module was launched into orbit on April 29th.

The Shenzhou 12 capsule with the crew will be launched from Jiuquan base in northwest China next month, Yang said in comments released Saturday by China Central Television.

Yang, which orbited the Earth in 2003, gave no details about the astronauts’ identity or a flight date, but confirmed that the crew will not include any women. He said the crew comes from the program’s two earliest groups of astronauts.

Asked whether women would be in the crew, Yang said, “at Shenzhou 12, we do not have them, but missions after that, everyone wants them.”

The Tianzhou-2 spacecraft that docked at Tianhe on Sunday carried 6.8 tons of cargo including space suits, food and equipment for the astronauts and fuel for the station, according to the space program.

The space agency is planning a total of 11 launches by the end of next year to deliver two more modules to the 70-tonne station, supplies and crew.

Beijing does not participate in the International Space Station, largely due to US objections. Washington is wary of the secrecy of the Chinese program and its military relations.

China has sent 11 astronauts, including two women, into space beginning with Yang’s flight in October 2003. The first female astronaut was Liu Yang in 2012.

All of China’s astronauts to date have been pilots from the military wing of the ruling Communist Party, the People’s Liberation Army.

Astronauts on Tianhe will practice making spacewalks with two people outside the hull at a time, according to Yang. China’s first spacewalk was made in 2008 by Zhai Zhigang outside the Shenzhou 7 capsule.

Also this month, the Chinese space program landed a probe, Tianwen-1, on Mars with a rover, Zhurong.

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Nation World News Desk
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