China successfully launches its first crewed mission for space station construction on Thursday.
As per the latest update, three Chinese astronauts aboard the Shenzhou-12 spaceship have entered the country’s space station core module Tianhe, dedicating to four major tasks in the in-orbit construction of the station in the following three months.
The three astronauts onboard the mission include commander Nie Haisheng, a 56-year-old veteran who participated in the Shenzhou-6 and Shenzhou-10 missions, Liu Boming, 54, who was part of the Shenzhou-7 mission, and Tang Hongbo, 45, who is in his first space mission.
The crewed spacecraft Shenzhou-12, atop a Long March-2F carrier rocket, was launched at 9:22 a.m. (Beijing Time) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China’s Gobi Desert, June 17, 2021.
About 573 seconds after the launch, Shenzhou-12 separated from the rocket and entered its designated orbit. The Shenzhou-12 crew is in good shape and the launch is a complete success, the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) said in a statement.
“At 3:54 p.m., the spaceship, measuring about nine meters in height and around eight tones in weight, completed orbital status setting after entering the orbit and conducted a fast autonomous rendezvous and docking with the front docking port of Tianhe, forming a three-module complex with the cargo craft Tianzhou-2,” the statement added.
By 6:48 p.m., Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo had entered the Tianhe module one by one, signifying that for the first time the Chinese have entered their own space station, said the CMSA.
The whole process took approximately 6.5 hours.
The Shenzhou-12 crew will complete four major tasks in orbit, said assistant to the CMSA director, Ji Qiming, at a press conference held at the launch center on Wednesday.
Briefing about the Shenzhou-12 crew tasks, assistant to the CMSA director added:
“First, they will operate and manage the complex, including the in-orbit test of the Tianhe module, verification of a variety of subsystems and equipment.
Second, they will perform two extravehicular activities (EVAs) for assembling and installing.
Third, they will carry out space science experiments and technology experiments, as well as public outreach activities.
Fourth, they will manage their own health through daily life care, physical exercise, and regular monitoring and assessment of their own health status.”