The three Shenzhou-14 astronauts – Commanders Chen Dong and Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe – are preparing for an extended stay aboard China’s Tiangong space station.
The trio arrived in Tianhe, Tiangong’s core module, on Sunday morning (June 5), just a few hours after launch. Since then, the astronauts have inspected and set up the crew’s environment to ensure drinking water, oxygen production, sleeping conditions, sanitation and other systems are working well, said Wang Saijin, deputy chief designer of the astronaut system of the China Human Spaceflight Program in Beijing Aerospace Flight Control Center.
“These are all very important statuses,” Wang told China Central Television (opens in new tab) (monitor+). “They must also organize and transport supplies, including procuring the Tianzhou-3 and Tianzhou-4 cargo ships.”
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Aside from that work, Tianhe was quite willing to host the six-month event Shenzhen 14 Mission, Chinese space officials said.
“The space station complex is in excellent condition for the manned mission,” said Gao Xu, deputy chief designer of the astronaut system of the Chinese manned space program under the China Academy of Space Technology. said CCTV+ (opens in new tab).
Tiangong’s final assembly
Chen, Liu and Cai will help to complete the assembly and construction tian gong, and evolved it from a one-module structure to a three-module national space laboratory. The other two modules, named Wentian and Mengtian, are expected to be launched in July and October, respectively.
Wentian and Mengtian will cluster on either side of Tianhe, forming a complex about 20% as massive as that International Space Station. The Shenzhou 14 astronauts will oversee this assembly work, which will be carried out with the help of Tianhe’s robotic arm.
International missions to Tiangong?
Regarding the future plan for China’s space station, Huang Weifen, chief designer of the China Manned Space Program’s taikonaut (as China calls its astronauts) training system, said China has been cooperating with other countries. She believes international astronauts will eventually fly to Tiangong alongside their Chinese counterparts.
“In fact, since 2012 we have been collaborating with the European Astronaut Center on selection and training, medical surveillance and support, and space nutrition.” Huang to CCTV+ (opens in new tab).
“We also sent each other taikonauts to train. Such exchanges aim for the European Space Agency’s taikonauts to come to the China Space Station. So we made appropriate technical preparations and discussed how to select and train.” Huang added. “We do this actively. And many other countries, for example Pakistan, have indicated their willingness to join flight missions on the China space station. I believe there will certainly come a time for international taikonauts.”
Leonard David is the author of Moon Rush: The New Space Race, published by National Geographic in May 2019. A longtime writer for Space.com, David has covered the space industry for more than five decades. Follow us on Twitter @spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).