Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 26 June 2023

China’s Shenzhou-16 spacecraft launched

Source: By The Indian Express

China launched a spacecraft carrying three astronauts, including its first civilian, to its Tiangong space station on 30 May 2023. This is the country’s fifth manned mission to a fully functional space station since 2021.

According to state media, the spacecraft, the Shenzhou-16, was launched atop a Long March-2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi Desert in northwest China. In a statement, Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre’s Director Zou Lipeng said the launch was a “complete success” and the “astronauts are in good condition”.

Who are the three astronauts going to the Tiangong space station?

The crew of Shenzhou-16 includes Jing Haipeng as the leading commander on the mission, as well as Zhu Yangzhu and Gui Haichao, the first Chinese civilian to travel to space. So far, the Asian country has also been sending astronauts chosen from its People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

While this is Jing’s fourth space mission — he is a senior spacecraft pilot from China’s first batch of astronaut trainees in the late 1990s, as per Reuters — it is Zhu’s and Gui’s first spaceflight.

Zhu is a postdoctoral fellow in aerodynamics, a former university teacher, and will serve as a spaceflight engineer. Meanwhile, Gui will be the payload specialist on the mission, looking after science experiments at the space station.

What is the new mission about?

The three astronauts will replace the crew of Shenzhou-15 aboard the Tiangong space station, who have been there since November last year.

The new crew will stay there for the next five months and will carry out “large-scale in-orbit tests and experiments in various fields as planned. They are expected to make high-level scientific achievements in the study of novel quantum phenomenahigh-precision space time-frequency systems, the verification of general relativity, and the origin of life,” as per the Xinhua News Agency.

What is the Tiangong space station?

Operated by China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), the Tiangong space station was built by China after the USA barred NASA from working with the Asian country, citing a high risk of espionage. The permanently inhabited space station’s first module entered orbit in 2021 and two more modules were added to it in the following years.

The Tiangong space station, expected to become the sole in-orbit outpost for scientific research after the end of operations for the International Space Station in 2030, is China’s ambitious project to achieve its space dreams. The country has already announced its plan to expand it, “with the next module slated to dock with the current T-shaped space station to create a cross-shaped structure,” as per Reuters.

China has also invited other countries and companies to collaborate and carry out experiments at its space station. Earlier this year, CMSA told the media that the nation has three space missions for its space station application and development this year.

Apart from the Shenzhou-16 launch, these include the cargo craft Tianzhou-6, which was launched earlier in May, and the second crewed spaceship Shenzhou-17 later in 2023.

Book A Free Counseling Session