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Tiangong, China's first space station, awaits the arrival of the three astronauts who departed today

Tiangong, China’s first space station, awaits the arrival of the three astronauts who departed today

Tiangong Station, China’s first space station, will not remain uninhabited for more than a month. Who is now waiting for the arrival of a new crew, and the second is destined to live there for a long time. Three more astronauts, or rather “cosmonauts”, two men and a woman, departed today to reach the station in orbit. Confirmation of the fact that Chinese astronauts are advancing towards their great goals, including long stays in space stations, which is also a precursor to future astronauts’ missions on the Moon. The Shenzhou 13 spacecraft took off this afternoon, on a Long March 2F rocket now being tested at Jiuquan Base, in the Gobi Desert, with veteran commander Zhai Zhigang, 55, and the Chinese aviation commander, who had already taken vacations at Shenzhou 7 in 2008: “I’m excited – he said before launch – I can’t wait to get back into orbit, after 13 years of waiting.”

With him, Wang Yaping, the 41-year-old astronaut on his second space flight, after Shenzhou 10’s 14-day flight into orbit. During the mission, she will perform at least one “spacewalk” and thus will be the first Chinese woman to perform an “extravehicular activity”.

The third is Ye Guangfu, also 41, on his maiden voyage. The names were only revealed by Chinese authorities yesterday, but the crew has been training for two years. Indeed, the intermittent wait for the three astronauts is also justified by the fact that they were selected in December 2019: then the pandemic and some technical problems postponed the launch of the “core” of the station, the first element in orbit, and therefore the last. Two unmanned missions. There are no short-haul tours, no “space hopping”, as we’ve been recently accustomed to Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic with their “star tourists” passengers, but a real and fascinating space project that will bring the three Chinese astronauts to stay in it. orbit for six months. Thus he exceeded 3 months for Shenzhou (meaning “divine ship”) crew number 12.

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The Shenzhou 13 spacecraft will have to enter orbit 10 minutes after separating from Earth, and it will have to dock at the station’s rare hole 400 km from Earth. Almost the share of the International Space Station, the International Space Station. The astronauts will have to immediately verify the deployment of the solar panels, before proceeding to the date of the rendezvous and docking: “The goal of our new manned mission – said Lin yesterday at a press conference – is to test new technologies in orbit, new materials. Then test the processes we will need to expand the station With subsequent modules. In fact, astronauts often get busy working with the robotic arm, and of course there will be scientific tests.”

The next unit that will dock, and thus expand the station, will be launched in 2022. So the future of space China’s presence in orbit is well defined: now two cargo units are docked at the station, unmanned dispatches for supplies. The Tiangong River is now 40 meters long. The first division, called Tianhe, was launched in April, then Shenzhou 12 and two automatic charging units followed. For the foreseeable future, China has planned six missions in 2022, including two large terminal expansion units, two more cargo planes, and two Shenzhou 14 and 15 manned missions. Now is the time for Mission 13. And in China, unlike the United States, they do not believe in superstitions about this number.