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China to Send 3 Astronauts to Space Station

Source:Xinhua Published:2021-06-16 14:38

Crew on board the Shenzhou XII spacecraft – Tang Hongbo, Nie Haisheng and Liu Boming (from left to right). [Photo/Xinhua]

China will launch its seventh manned space mission on Thursday morning to deploy three astronauts to the core module of the nation's permanent space station, according to a project leader.

Ji Qiming, assistant to the director of the China Manned Space Agency, told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region that the crew on board the Shenzhou XII spacecraft – Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo – will be lifted atop a Long March 2F carrier rocket at 9:22 am at the launch complex and will become the first occupants of the core module after their spacecraft docks with the module, which is traveling in a low-Earth orbit hundreds of kilometers above the ground.

Ji said that during their three-month stay inside the module, named Tianhe, or Harmony of Heavens, the all-male crew is tasked with testing and verifying plans, technologies and equipment for crucial elements in space station's construction and operation, such as astronauts' long-term mission arrangements, life-support system, in-orbit resupply, extravehicular activity as well as spacecraft maintenance and repair.

They are also assigned to carry out other space tasks and experiments.

Ji said that after Nie's crew finishes their three-month tenure, they will return to the Shenzhou XII and then drive the spacecraft to depart from Tianhe and fly back to Earth to land on the Dongfeng Landing Site in Inner Mongolia.

He noted that Nie, who has already flown twice in space, will be the mission commander, adding that the mission's alternative crew members are Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu.

Through this mission, the manned space agency will be able to accumulate experience and check the capability, performance and compatibility of systems involved in the space station program, according to the official.

The Long March 2F rocket to be used in the mission will start to pump propellants into its fuel tanks on Wednesday morning, he said.

Tianhe was lifted by a Long March 5B heavy-lift rocket at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province on April 29. The largest and heaviest spacecraft China has ever built, the module is the first part of the Chinese space station, named Tiangong, or Heavenly Palace.

The module is now connected with the Tianzhou 2 robotic cargo ship that was launched by a Long March 7 rocket from the Wenchang facility on May 29. The two crafts docked with each other the next day.

By now, all pre-launch preparations have been completed and the Tianhe-Tianzhou 2 combination is ready for the astronauts' arrival, Ji said.

Hao Chun, director of the manned space agency, told China Daily in April that the Tianzhou 3 cargo ship will be launched from Wenchang in September to dock with Tianhe. The next month, another three-astronaut team will fly to the core module on Shenzhou XIII to work there for six months.

Editor:Wei Wei