China to send three astronauts to its space station for the first time in-orbit crew rotation in Chinese space history.
An operation of the International Space Station launched by China as the second inhabited outpost in low-Earth orbit after the NASA-led International Space Station.
According to state television, the spacecraft Shenzhou-15, or “Divine Vessel,” and its three passengers launched at 11:08 p.m. (1508 GMT) on Tuesday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center atop a Long March-2F rocket in the subfreezing Gobi Desert in northwest China.
The “Celestial Palace,” as the multi-module station is known in Chinese, required the completion of 11 missions, the last of which, Shenzhou-15, began in April 2021 and included three earlier crewed missions.
The group will succeed the Shenzhou-14 team, which arrived earlier this June. After a one-week transfer, the previous crew members are anticipated to return to Earth in early December. During this time, it will be determined whether the station can temporarily accommodate six astronauts, which would be a record for China’s space program.
With the arrival of the last of the three cylindrical modules in November, the space station assumed its characteristic “T” appearance.
The station is intended to be operational for at least ten years, during which its occupants will carry out over 1,000 scientific investigations, including ones on fluid behavior in microgravity and how plants adapt to their environment in space.
The “Celestial Palace” was the result of almost 20 years of Chinese crewed spaceflights. Yang Liwei, a veteran fighter pilot, became China’s first man in space and an instant hero cheered by millions at home in 2003 when he was launched into orbit in a small, bronze-colored capsule called the Shenzhou-5. This marked the beginning of China’s human space flights.
After being cut off from the NASA-led International Space Station (ISS) and forbidden by American law from any direct or indirect cooperation with the American space agency, the space station served as a symbol of China’s growing influence and confidence in its space endeavors as well as a rival to the United States in the field.
The Shenzhou-15 mission, during which its crew will live and work on the space station for six months, also offered the nation a rare moment to celebrate, at a time of widespread unhappiness over China’s stifling zero-COVID policies while its economy hits the brakes amid uncertainties at home and abroad.
“Long live the motherland!” many Chinese netizens wrote on social media commenting on the see-off ceremony at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, China.