China launches Shenzhou-16 manned spaceship for 5-month intensive tasks in space station
* The Shenzhou-16 astronauts are expected to make high-level scientific achievements in the study of novel quantum phenomena, high-precision space time-frequency systems, the verification of general relativity, and the origin of life.
* China will launch an extension module at an appropriate time and expand the basic configuration of the space station from the current T shape to a cross shape to further support the in-orbit scientific experiments and create better working and living conditions for astronauts.
* With the ability to carry out crewed missions on a regular basis with a frequency of twice a year, China is looking forward to and welcomes the participation of foreign astronauts in the country's space station flight missions.
by Xinhua Writers Yang Chunxue, Wang Chenxi and Quan Xiaoshu
JIUQUAN -- China on Tuesday launched the Shenzhou-16 manned spaceship, sending three astronauts to its space station combination for a five-month mission.
The spaceship, atop a Long March-2F carrier rocket, blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 9:31 a.m. (Beijing Time), according to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA).
About 10 minutes after the launch, Shenzhou-16 separated from the rocket and entered its designated orbit. The crew members, consisting of Jing Haipeng, Zhu Yangzhu and Gui Haichao, are in good shape and the launch is a complete success, the CMSA said.
After entering orbit, the Shenzhou-16 spaceship will make a fast, automated rendezvous and docking with the space station combination. The Shenzhou-16 crew will rotate with the Shenzhou-15 crew in orbit.
This combo photo taken on May 30, 2023 shows the Shenzhou-16 manned spaceship, atop a Long March-2F carrier rocket, being launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China. [Xinhua/Li Gang]
It is the first crewed mission for the application and development stage of China's space station, and the 29th flight mission since the country's manned space program was approved and initiated.
During their mission, the Shenzhou-16 astronauts will conduct large-scale in-orbit tests and experiments in various fields.
"The crew will conduct more than 50 in-orbit tests and experiments on space science and application payloads, the highest so far by any Chinese team who has been to space," said Huang Weifen, chief designer of the China manned space program's astronaut system.
They are expected to make high-level scientific achievements in the study of novel quantum phenomena, high-precision space time-frequency systems, the verification of general relativity, and the origin of life.
Like its predecessors, the crew will give space class to students on Earth and conduct other public welfare activities, Huang said.
They will also carry out in-orbit health monitoring and physical exercises, training and rehearsals, extravehicular activities as well as equipment installation, debugging, maintenance and repair, and material management.
In order to improve the quality of work and life of the astronauts in the space station, the diet of the astronauts has been optimized.
"We have developed 11 types of new food, and the Shenzhou-16 crew will enjoy more than 150 kinds of food and drinks," Huang said.
Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng (C), Zhu Yangzhu (R) and Gui Haichao attend a see-off ceremony at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, May 30, 2023. [Xinhua/Li Zhipeng]
She also revealed that the astronauts have carried a plant cultivation device to the space station, which will not only provide a small number of fresh vegetables and fruit in orbit but also help regulate their emotional and psychological well-being through planting.
The Shenzhou-16 crew will witness the dockings of the Tianzhou-5 cargo craft and the Shenzhou-17 crewed spaceship, as well as the departures of the Shenzhou-15 manned spaceship and Tianzhou-5, the CMSA deputy director Lin Xiqiang told a press conference on Monday.
As China's space station has entered the stage of application and development, the handover of work of different groups of astronauts and cargo supply missions will be implemented regularly in the following flight missions after Shenzhou-16.
Large-scale space science and technology experiments will be carried out in the following missions, including almost 1,000 scientific research and application projects in four fields, namely space life science and human body research, microgravity physics science, space astronomy and Earth science, and new space technology and application, Lin said.
China will launch an extension module at an appropriate time and expand the basic configuration of the space station from the current T shape to a cross shape to further support the in-orbit scientific experiments and create better working and living conditions for astronauts.
COMMON CAUSE OF HUMANITY
With the ability to carry out crewed missions on a regular basis with a frequency of twice a year, China is looking forward to and welcomes the participation of foreign astronauts in the country's space station flight missions.
Lin said China is steadily pushing forward the planned cooperation projects with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, the European Space Agency and other organizations.
Meanwhile, China has actively expanded exchanges with emerging space nations, focusing on in-orbit scientific experiments and applications, and joint flights for astronauts to the space station, he added.
The Shenzhou-16 mission has brought "special gifts" in the form of paintings by children from 10 African countries that convey good wishes for China's space station.
Chinese taikonauts Jing Haipeng (C), Zhu Yangzhu (R) and Gui Haichao for the upcoming Shenzhou-16 mission answer questions from journalists at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China May 29, 2023. [Xinhua/Jin Liwang]
Exploring the vast universe is the common cause of all humanity and a shared dream of the whole society, regardless of race and age, said Jing Haipeng, commander of the Shenzhou-16 crew.
"This time, we are honored to bring our children's best youth, friendship, and dreams into space. We should sow the seeds of science, friendship, and dreams on China's space station and let them take root and blossom," the commander added.
Li Mi, Liu Xin, Yuan Quan, Zhang Dan, Che Yunlong, Shen Feng, Li Guoli, Zhang Mimi, Li Yun and Huang Yichen also contributed to the story.
Video reporters: Dong Bohan, Hao Xiaojiang, Yang Zhigang; Video editors: Zhang Yucheng, Li Qin, Zheng Xin