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Tiangong space station open to world

China Daily | Updated: 2022-11-30 07:55

China launches Shenzhou XV spaceship on Tuesday night. [Photo by Wang Jiangbo/for chinadaily.com.cn]

After years of efforts, China's space station will soon be fully operational.

Over the past 19 years, from China's first manned space mission Shenzhou V to the latest Shenzhou XV launch, the nation's space endeavors have progressed from a single-astronaut mission to the long-term stay of several astronauts in space. The number of astronauts one spaceship can carry has increased from one to three, and the length of time the astronauts stay in space has expanded from just 23 hours to six months.

When the Shenzhou XV spacecraft docks with the space station, the three astronauts already crewing the station will hand it over to the three new arrivals before returning to Earth. During the weeklong transition period there will be six people living in the space station.

China's space progress has been accelerating. It took eight years to go from Shenzhou V to the Tiangong I space lab, and five years from Tiangong I to the more advanced space lab Tiangong II. During that process the program advanced so rapidly that a planned Tiangong III was incorporated into Tiangong II.

Similarly, the Long March 2F Y15 rocket, which carried the Shenzhou XV spacecraft into space, has 45 technological improvements over its predecessor which carried Shenzhou XIV, completing the upgrading and optimization of the Long March 2F rocket series.

Likewise, after the Tianhe core module of the space station was put into orbit in April last year, it took only a year and a half for the two laboratory modules to be attached, forming a Chinese space station complex that comprises the core module and two lab modules.

With the arrival of the Shenzhou XV spacecraft and its crew, the Chinese space station will open a new chapter for China's space program, as the astronauts will conduct a series of scientific experiments in space. More than 40 space science and technology experiments will be conducted by the Shenzhou XV astronauts. And with more scientific research equipment to be sent to the space station it will be equivalent to having a world-class university laboratory in space.

A number of space science projects China jointly selected with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs and European Space Agency are planned, and the relevant payloads will begin to be sent to the Chinese space station next year. Requests have also been received from several countries to send astronauts to participate in the space station experiments, and China is coordinating with the relevant parties and actively preparing for the training of foreign astronauts.

The International Space Station has conducted over 3,000 experiments during its time in service, and the Chinese space station will be no slouch in this regard. As the only space station after the ISS is retired, it will continue to expand humanity's understanding of space. That is worth looking forward to.


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