Jun 05, 2022

China launches third crewed mission to space

China launched another manned mission to its new space station on Sunday, sending three astronauts who will continue construction work for six months.

The astronauts lifted off on the Shenzhou-14 spacecraft at 10:44 a.m. local time, launched by a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert, Inner Mongolia.

The team will live and work at the Tiangong Space Station's Tianhe core module for six months before returning to Earth in December. Tiangong means Heavenly Palace.

The crew includes Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe, according to Chinese state media Global Times.

Chen, the mission commander, was aboard China's Shenzhou-11 manned space mission in 2016 and previously held the record for longest stay in space by a Chinese astronaut. Liu became the first ever Chinese woman in space in 2012 on the Shenzhou-9 mission. And this will be Cai's first mission in space.

Chinese astronauts Cai Xuzhe, Chen Dong and Liu Yang who will carry out the Shenzhou-14 spaceflight mission.

This is the third crewed mission during the construction of the space station, which China plans to have fully crewed and operational by December 2022. The first crewed mission, a three-month stay by three other astronauts, was completed in September 2021. The second, Shenzhou-13, saw three astronauts spend six months in space for the first time.

Six months is the standard mission duration for many countries -- but it is an important opportunity for Chinese astronauts to become accustomed to a long-term stay in space and help prepare future astronauts to do the same.

Six space missions have been scheduled before the end of the year, including another crewed mission, two laboratory modules and two cargo missions.

The team aboard Shenzhou-14 will help with the docking, setting up and testing of the two laboratory modules Wentian and Mengtian, which are set to launch in July and October.

According to the Global Times, the basic structure of the T-shaped space station, which consists of the Tianhe core cabin and the two laboratory modules, will be completed during this mission. The team will also meet the crew of the Shenzhou-15 mission when it launches later this year, before returning home.


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