Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, May 29 (EFE).- China on Monday was making the final preparations to put three astronauts into orbit aboard the Shenzhou-16 spacecraft, which will transport them to the Tiangong space station, where they will remain for about five months.
Lin Xiqiang, deputy director of the China Manned Space Agency, said in a press briefing that Jing Haipeng, Zhu Yangzhu and Gui Haichao, will depart at 9:31 am on Tuesday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China’s Gobi Desert.
Jing will lead the space mission, which will be his fourth, making him the most experienced astronaut in China.
It will be the first space mission for Zhu and Gui.
Jing and Zhu will be in charge of the maneuvers and management of the spacecraft as well as conducting scientific experiments, while Gui will be responsible for experimental payloads, Lin said.
The three taikonauts – as astronauts are called in China – will spend a few days with the crew that has been manning the space station for the last six months and who arrived at the station aboard the Shenzhou-15 for the first in-orbit crew handover at the Tiangong.
The crew of Shenzhou-16 will be the first to arrive at Tiangong since its construction was completed in late 2022, marking the start of the application and development phase of the station, whose construction began in April 2021.
By 2024, Tiangong could become the world’s only space station if the International Space Station, a United States-led initiative to which China is barred due to military ties to its space program, is withdrawn that year as planned.
In recent years, the Chinese space program has achieved successes such as landing the Chang’e 4 probe on the hidden side of the Moon – the first time it has been achieved – and reaching Mars for the first time, becoming the third country to do so after the US and the former Soviet Union. EFE