China to launch Shenzhou XVI manned spacecraft on Tuesday

By ZHAO LEI at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center | | Updated: 2023-05-29 09:04
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A press conference is held in Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Northwest China on May 29, 2023. [Photo/Xinhua]

The Shenzhou XVI crew will stay inside the Tiangong space station for around five months and is scheduled to return to Earth in November. They will carry out several spacewalks during the mission to mount equipment outside the station and maintain the massive orbital outpost, Lin said.

In addition to spacewalks, their major tasks also include assisting with the docking and departure of visiting spacecraft such as cargo ships and space-based telescope, conducting scientific experiments and technological demonstrations, and hosting science lectures, according to him.

Jing and Zhu are members of the People's Liberation Army's Astronaut Division while Gui is a doctoral supervisor at the Department of Spacecraft and Launch Vehicle Technology of the School of Astronautics of Beihang University in Beijing. All of the three crew members hold a doctorate.

This will be the fourth time for Jing to fly into space, making him the most experienced astronaut in China.

Zhu, spaceflight engineer in the Shenzhou XVI, and Gui, science payloads specialist of the mission, are the first in the country's third-generation astronauts to engage in spaceflight.

As of now, all of the Chinese astronauts who have been on spaceflights are members of the People's Liberation Army. They are the first two generations of astronauts who were selected from experienced Air Force aviators.

The third generation of astronauts has civilians recruited from researchers and engineers.

There are 17 men and one woman in this generation in three groups: seven spacecraft pilots, another seven as spaceflight engineers and the last four as science payloads specialists.

Earlier this month, the Tianzhou 6 robotic cargo spaceship set out from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province to transport materials for the next manned missions, becoming the first spacecraft to visit the Tiangong space station this year.

Orbiting about 400 kilometers above the ground, the Tiangong currently consists of three major components, the Tianhe core module and Wentian and Mengtian science lab modules, and is connected with two visiting craft, the Shenzhou XV crew ship and the Tianzhou 6 cargo ship.

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