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First civilian Chinese on a mission to reach space station.


A Long March rocket carrying a crew of Chinese astronauts in the Shenzhou-16 spaceship lifts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, Tuesday, May 30, 2023. Credit: AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

China sent three astronauts to its Tiangong space station on Tuesday, putting a civilian into orbit for the first time as it pushes forward with plans to send a manned mission to the Moon by 2030.

The world’s second largest economy has invested billions of dollars in the military’s space program in a bid to catch up with the United States and Russia.

The Shenzhou-16 crew took off aboard a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 9:31 a.m. (0131 GMT), AFP journalists saw.

State broadcaster CCTV said they docked in the space station’s Tianhe core module on Tuesday afternoon, more than six hours after liftoff.

Zhou Liping, director of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, said the launch was a “complete success” and “the astronauts are in good condition.”

Dozens of space program employees, many of whom live year-round at the massive site, attended the launch party and took selfies with the rocket in the background.

Children played while they waited for the launch, some waving Chinese flags as they sat on their parents’ shoulders.

The spectators let out a loud “wow,” chanting “good luck” and waving as the rocket took off in a cloud of ocher smoke.

Its crew is led by Commander Jing Haipeng on his fourth mission, as well as engineer Zhou Yangzhu and Beihang University professor Gui Hai Chao, the first Chinese civilian in space.

China was the third country to put humans into orbit, and Tiangong is the crown jewel of its space programme, which has also landed robotic rovers on Mars and the moon.

Authorities said Shenzhou-16 is the first mission to Tiangong since it entered the “application and development” stage.

The crew will meet up with their three colleagues from the Shenzhou-15 flight, who have been at the station for six months and will return to Earth in the coming days.

CMSA spokesman Lin Shiqiang told reporters that the Shenzhou-16 crew will conduct a number of experiments during the mission, including in “high-precision space-time-frequency systems”, general relativity, and the origin of life. on monday.

The space station was replenished with drinking water, clothing, food and fuel this month in preparation for the arrival of Shenzhou-16.

One expert told AFP that Tuesday’s mission represented a “patrol flight for the crew”, but even that was significant.

“Building a depth of experience in human spaceflight operations is important and doesn’t involve amazing new milestones all the time,” said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer and astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Heavenly Palace

China’s “space dream” has been implemented under President Xi Jinping, and it is planned to build a base on the moon.

“The overall goal is to achieve China’s first manned moon landing by 2030 and carry out lunar scientific exploration and related technology experiments,” said Lin of CMSA.

The final unit of Tiangong – which means “Heavenly Palace” – was successfully drawn up with the basic structure last year.

Xinhua reported that the station carries several pieces of advanced scientific equipment, including “the world’s first cold atomic clock system.”

Tiangong is expected to remain in low Earth orbit at altitudes between 400 and 450 kilometers (250 and 280 miles) for at least 10 years.

It is operated continuously by alternating teams of three astronauts.

China has been effectively shut out of the International Space Station since 2011, when the United States banned NASA from doing business with the country — prompting Beijing to develop its own orbital outpost.

China’s space agency confirmed on Monday that it is actively seeking international cooperation on the project.

China plans to send two manned space missions to Tiangong each year, according to CMSA.

The next will be Shenzhou-17, which is expected to be launched in October.

© 2023 AFP

the quote: Chinese mission with first civilian to reach space station (2023, May 30) Retrieved May 30, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-05-chinese-mission-civilian-space-station.html

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