Science.-First crew for the Chinese space station


Chinese astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo will carry out the Shenzhou-12 manned space flight mission, and Nie will be the commander.

This will be the first manned mission during the construction of China’s space station, and the crew will remain in orbit for three months, said Ji Qiming, assistant to the director of the CMSA (China Manned Space Agency), at a press conference held in the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, where the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft will launch on June 17.

Nie, the most experienced of the three, was on the Shenzhou-6 mission in 2005 and on the Shenzhou-10 mission in 2013. It will be Liu’s second spaceflight, as he once participated in the Shenzhou-7 mission in 2008, which featured a historic spacewalk. Tang will be a newcomer to space. He became a member of the second group of Chinese astronauts in 2010.

The Shenzhou-12 spacecraft will conduct a rapid autonomous rendezvous and docking with the central module of the Tianhe space station and will form a complex with Tianhe and the Tianzhou-2 cargo ship.

China launched Tianhe on April 29 and Tianzhou-2 on May 29. The two completed an automated rendezvous and docking on May 30, waiting for the first manned mission to unpack the cargo.

The Shenzhou-12 astronauts are expected to set a new record for the duration of China’s manned space missions and their work is also more complicated and challenging than previous manned missions, said CMSA Director Hao Chun.

According to Ji, in the Shenzhou-12 mission, the crew will complete four main tasks in orbit. First, they will operate and manage the complex, including in-orbit testing of the Tianhe module, validation of the recycling and life support system, testing and operational training of the robotic arm, as well as material and waste management.

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Second, they will move, assemble and test extravehicular spacesuits and perform two extravehicular activities for the job that include assembling an extravehicular toolbox, lifting the panoramic camera, and installing extended pump assemblies.

Third, they will carry out space science and technology experiments, as well as public outreach activities.

Fourth, they will monitor their own health through daily life care, physical exercise, and regular monitoring and evaluation of their own health status.

All of the astronauts have undergone ground training and mission preparation under comprehensive training programs and plans, Ji said.

The Tianhe module will provide astronauts with three times more space than is available in the Tiangong-2 space laboratory, with three separate bedrooms and a bathroom.

Meanwhile, astronauts can choose from more than 120 types of space foods “that not only taste good, but provide balanced nutrition with a long shelf life,” Xinhua reports.

The dining room is equipped with a food warming device, a refrigerator, a water dispenser and a folding table. In the exercise area, the treadmill and spinning bike provide exercise to maintain physical health.

Two-way video communication and emails between the station and ground control will be done through the space communication link and video communication equipment.

Compared to previous manned missions, the central module of the space station is, for the first time, equipped with a life support system, including subsystems for electrolytic oxygen generation, collection and treatment of condensed water, urine treatment, removal of carbon dioxide and removal of traces of noxious gas to ensure long-term stay in orbit for astronauts, Ji said.

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