China is getting ready to send three astronauts to its new space station core module, though we do not yet know when the launch will take place and who exactly will go.
That Shenzhou-12 spacecraft that flew on top of a long March 2F rocket was rolled out to the cushion at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Wednesday, June 9, according to Chinese space officials and state media. The Chinese astronauts or taikonauts are in quarantine to prepare for their mission, reports added.
“The spacecraft and rockets are in good condition and the facility’s facilities and equipment are in good condition,”
Related: The latest news about China’s space program
Following the launch of Jiuquan in the Gobi Desert, the Shenzhou 12 spacecraft and its crew will join the Tianhe space station module, which launched on April 28th and Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft, which launched nearly seven tons of supplies to the facility on May 29th. (The launch of the core module with a long March 5 rocket led to an uncontrolled re-entry of the booster’s core stage, which drew criticism from the new NASA administrator Bill Nelson, among other.)
Another supply run is expected in September with the robotic Tianzhou-3 cargo ship, CAST officials added, though the statement did not specify whether taikonauts will still be in space on their three-month mission when Tianzhou-3 docks. Another crew mission is expected in October with an as yet unnamed crew aboard Shenzhou-13.
Shenzhou-12, China’s first manned mission since 2016, will include “a range of tasks such as repair and maintenance,” said Yang Liwei, director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office, in an English-language language. report from the state media provider CGTN on Wednesday.
Yang, who in 2003 became the first person to be sent to space by China’s space program, also told reporters that there are no women in the crew to be launched soon. “At Shenzhou-12 we do not have them, but missions then everyone wants them,” Washington Post quoted Yang as said. (China’s first female taikonaut was Liu Yang in 2012, and two of the 11 taikonauts who have landed so far have been women.)
Shenzhou-12 marks the third of 11 missions required to complete the construction of China’s space station, which is expected by the end of 2022, CGTN noted. The 11 missions include the launch of the core module, two “lab capsule” modules, four cargo flights and four crew missions, according to CGTN.
Taikonauts will spend some time outside the space station, Yang said in comments quoted in Global Times. “Astronauts coming out of the cabin are becoming a new routine and the duration of such activities is greatly expanded,” he said.
Chinese officials also said the space station includes “robot arms” that, according to the Global Times, can be extended as far as 15 meters to help taikonauts with construction and maintenance, but few other details were made available.
Future launches for the space station will include Chinese experimental modules, international scientific payloads arranged through the UN Office for External Space and foreign astronauts, SpaceNews said in a report. The station is expected to last 10 years and will include a co-orbiting space telescope Hubble-class called Xuntian, which will study the sky using a 2.5 billion pixel camera, SpaceNews added.
China is not a partner on the International Space Station, mainly because of one 2011 ban on NASA’s bilateral agreements due to ongoing concerns about China’s security and military practices. Nelson and Pam Melroy – there is President Joe Biden’s candidate for Deputy NASA Administrator – both spoke with concern about China’s increasingly ambitious space activities, including a Mars Rover landing in May during recent congressional hearings.
ISS partner Russia signed a pledge with China in April to build one research outpost on the moon, although the collaboration did not specify when the plant would break ground. So far, Russia is committed to remaining in the ISS program until 2024, although Dmitry Rogozin, head of Russia’s federal space agency Roscosmos, recently threatened to leave unless the United States removes various sanctions against the Russian space industry. (There have been several restrictions going back to at least 2014.)
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