China’s first space station crew will launch next week to live in a module that could outlast the International Space Station.
Next week, China will launch its first crew to live on its new orbiting space station.
According to the Associated Press, three astronauts will spend three months on the Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony, space station, conducting spacewalks, research experiments, and doing maintenance.
To expand the station, the Chinese space agency anticipates 11 launches through the end of next year.
When Tianhe is finished, visitors will be able to stay for up to six months. The station is expected to remain operational for 15 years, outlasting the International Space Station, which is nearing the end of its useful life. The United States is concerned about China’s military and surveillance projects, hence China does not participate in the ISS.
See the list below for more Associated Press reporting.
The Shenzhou-12 spaceship was relocated to the launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on Wednesday, according to a brief statement from the China Manned Space Engineering Office. It’s expected to go live next Wednesday.
According to rumors, another cargo flight is planned for September, after which a replacement crew would be sent up. The other two modules of the station are set to launch next year.
In March, China announced that the astronauts training for the forthcoming crewed flights were a mix of space veterans and rookies, with several women among them. To date, China has sent 11 astronauts into space, all of them are pilots from the People’s Liberation Army, the military wing of the ruling Communist Party.
According to Yang Liwei, who orbited Earth on China’s first crewed mission in 2003 and is now an official at the space agency, the first Tianhe crew will be all-male, but women will be part of future crews aboard the station.
The Tianhe builds on experience China gained from operating two experimental space stations earlier in its increasingly ambitious space program. Chinese astronauts spent 33 days living on the second of the previous stations, carried out a spacewalk and taught science classes that were beamed down to students across the country.
China landed a probe, the Tianwen-1, on Mars last month that carried a rover, the Zhurong. It also has brought back lunar samples, the first by any country’s. This is a brief summary.