China on Sunday launched three astronauts to complete the assembly work on its permanent Tiangong space station. The trio consists of commander Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe.
Liu is also a space veteran and was China’s first female astronaut to reach space aboard the Shenzhou 9 mission in 2012 while 46-year-old Cai will be making his first space trip. The spaceship, atop a Long March-2F carrier rocket, was lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 10:44 a.m., according to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA). CMSA declared that the crew members are in good shape and the launch is a complete success.
The crew will work with the ground team to complete the rendezvous, docking and transposition of the two lab modules with the core module, said Lin Xiqiang, deputy director of the CMSA, at a press conference Saturday. The astronauts have to develop the space station from a single-module structure into a national space laboratory with three modules. These are the core module Tianhe and two lab modules Wentian and Mengtian.
The Tianhe core module was launched in April 2021, and the Wentian lab module is set to be launched in July and Mengtian in October. Chen, Liu and Cai will be joined at the end of their mission for three to five days by the crew of the upcoming Shenzhou 15, marking the first time the station will have had six people aboard.
(With Inputs from Agenies)