China’s first successful launch of crewed mission for spacestation construction

Global Affairs

The Shenzhou 12 mission launched from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China. Shenzhou 12 – China’s first crewed spaceflight in nearly five years – is sending three astronauts to Tianhe (“Harmony of the Heavens”), the core module of the nation’s new Tiangong space station. If all goes according to plan, the trio will spend three months aboard the 54-foot-long (16.6 meters) Tianhe, performing a variety of tests and maintenance activities.

As reported in New York times “On a clear, sunny Thursday(17th June 2021) morning in the Gobi Desert, China launched three astronauts to rendezvous with the country’s nascent space station. This is the third of 11 missions planned to complete construction of China’s first long-term outpost in space before the end of next year.”

The two veteran astronauts and a newcomer making his first space flight are heading to the Tianhe station for a three-month stay in its main living compartment for three months while they carry out experiments, test equipment, conduct maintenance and prepare the station for receiving two additional modules next year.

“We will not only make the core module a ‘space home’ but also carry out a series of key technology verifications,” Nie said. “There will be more arduous tasks and more challenges.”Nie, Liu and Tang will help get Tianhe up and running. The trio have four main tasks during their three-month mission, Xinhua reported, citing China Manned Space Agency officials. 

The astronauts will test, verify and operate the core module and its various systems; assemble and test spacesuits and perform two spacewalks outside Tianhe; conduct science and technology experiments and public outreach; and manage and monitor their health.