The three Shenzhou-14 astronauts – Commander Chen Dong and Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe – are settling in for a long stay aboard China’s Tiangong space station.
The threesome arrived in Tianhe, the Tiangong base module, on Sunday morning (June 5), just hours after taking off. Since then, astronauts have inspected and set up the crew environment, ensuring that drinking water, oxygen production, sleeping conditions, sanitation and other systems are working well, said Wang Saijin, deputy chief designer of China’s human space program astronaut system. at the Beijing Aerospace Flight Control Center.
“These are all very important status parameters,” Wang told China Central Television (opens in a new tab) (CCTV+). “They also need to organize and move supplies, including those for the Tianzhou-3 and Tianzhou-4 cargo spacecraft.”
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Such work aside, Tianhe was fully prepared to accommodate the six-month shenzhen 14 mission, Chinese space officials said.
“The space station complex is in excellent condition for the manned mission,” said Gao Xu, deputy chief astronaut system designer of China’s manned space program under the Chinese Academy of Space Technology. told CCTV+ (opens in a new tab).
Tiangong Final Assembly
Chen, Liu and Cai will participate in the assembly and construction of Tiangong, transforming it from a single-module structure into a three-module National Space Laboratory. The other two modules, named Wentian and Mengtian, are expected to launch in July and October respectively.
Wentian and Mengtian will attach to each side of Tianhe, forming a complex about 20% as massive as the international space station. Astronauts from Shenzhou 14 will oversee these assembly operations, which will be carried out using Tianhe’s robotic arm.
International missions in Tiangong?
Speaking of China’s future space station plan, Huang Weifen, chief designer of the Chinese manned space program’s taikonaut training system (as China calls its astronauts), said China is cooperating with other countries. She believes international astronauts will eventually fly to Tiangong with their Chinese counterparts.
“Since 2012, in fact, we have been cooperating with the European Astronaut Center in selection and training, medical monitoring and support and space food”, Huang told CCTV+ (opens in a new tab).
“We have also sent taikonauts to each other for training. These exchanges are aimed at having taikonauts from the European Space Agency come to the Chinese Space Station. So we have made relevant technical preparations and discussed how which we should select and train,” Huang added. “We are actively doing this. And many other countries, for example Pakistan, have expressed their willingness to join flight missions on the Chinese Space Station. I think there will definitely be a time for international taikonauts to come.”
Leonard David is the author of the book “Moon Rush: The New Space Race”, published by National Geographic in May 2019. A longtime author for Space.com, David has been reporting on the space industry for more than five decades. Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Or on Facebook (opens in a new tab).