BEIJING: The first in-orbit crew rotation in Chinese space history saw three Chinese astronauts arrive on Wednesday at China’s space station, launching the second inhabited outpost in low-Earth orbit after the NASA-led International Space Station.
According to state television, the spacecraft Shenzhou-15, or “Divine Vessel,” and its three passengers took off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre on Tuesday at 11:08 p.m. (1508 GMT) on top of a Long March-2F rocket in the Gobi Desert in northwest China in temperatures below freezing.
Shenzhou-15 was the final of 11 missions needed to put together the “Celestial Palace,” as the multi-module station is known in Chinese. Three of those missions had been crewed.In April 2021, the first mission was launched.
The three Shenzhou-15 astronauts received warm hugs from the previous Shenzhou crew when the spacecraft docked with the space station more than six hours after the launch.
After a one-week handover that will establish the station’s capacity to temporarily sustain six astronauts—another record for China’s space program—the Shenzhou-14 crew, who arrived at the beginning of June, will return to Earth.
At a time when China’s zero-COVID policies are causing widespread discontent and its economy is cooling amid domestic and international uncertainty, the Shenzhou-15 mission provided the nation with a rare opportunity to celebrate.
“The land of the living!”On social media, numerous Chinese internet users wrote.
The culmination of nearly two decades of Chinese crewed space missions was the “Celestial Palace.”When Yang Liwei, a former fighter pilot, was launched into orbit in a small bronze-colored capsule known as the Shenzhou-5 in 2003, he became China’s first man in space and was immediately hailed as a hero by millions of people in the country.
After being isolated from the NASA-led ISS and prohibited by US law from any collaboration, direct or indirect, with the American space agency, the space station was also a symbol of China’s growing influence and confidence in its space endeavors and posed a threat to the United States in the field.
Fei Junlong, 57, was one of the future “taikonauts” who led the Shenzhou-15 mission. He was a member of China’s first batch of astronaut trainees in the late 1990s.His past visit to space was quite a while back as commandant of China’s second-at any point ran spaceflight.
Deng Qingming, 56, was standing by Fei’s side. He had trained as an astronaut for 24 years but had never been chosen for a mission until Shenzhou-15.Zhang Lu, 46, a space debutant as well as a former pilot in the air force, joined them.
The space travelers will live and deal with the T-molded space station for a very long time.
The third generation of astronauts with scientific backgrounds will select the next batch of “taikonauts” to board the space station in 2023. The term “taikonaut” comes from the Chinese word for space.From the 1990s to the 2000s, all of the astronauts in the first and second batches were former air force pilots.
China has begun the selection process for the fourth batch, looking for candidates with doctoral degrees in astronomy, biomedical engineering, physics, and biology, among other fields.
For the first time, applicants from Hong Kong and Macau can participate in the selection process.
China is expected to send two crewed missions to the space station annually over the next ten years of operation.
More than 1,000 scientific experiments are expected to be carried out by resident astronauts, ranging from examining the behavior of fluids in microgravity to the adaptation of plants to space.
China’s space program has come a long way since Mao Zedong, the country’s late leader, lamented that China could not even launch a potato into orbit. Although it is still in its infancy in comparison to NASA’s technologies and experience, China’s space program has made significant progress.