Editor’s word: China’s Shenzhou 13 launch webcast continues to be underway. You can watch it here, courtesy of CCTV.
China’s second crewed mission to its new space station is underway.
The nation’s Shenzhou 13 spacecraft launched from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center within the Gobi Desert at this time (Oct. 15), rising off the pad atop a Long March 2F rocket at 12:23 p.m. EDT (1623 GMT; 00:23 Oct. 16 native time).
Shenzhou 13 and its three passengers — commander Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu — are headed towards Tianhe, the core module of the Tiangong space station that China is constructing in low Earth orbit.
“Please rest assured that we will definitely succeed in this mission,” Zhai instructed mission officers as he headed to pad earlier than at this time’s liftoff. (Zhai spoke in Mandarin; the interpretation was supplied by Chinese TV station CCTV, which webcast the launch.) After reaching orbit, Zhai reported the crew was doing superb and all techniques had been nominal.
Related: The latest news about China’s space program
If all goes in accordance with plan, Shenzhou 13 will meet up with Tianhe tonight, about eight hours after launch.
Tianhe has solely been aloft since April, however the module has already hosted one crewed go to — Shenzhou 12, which launched in June and returned to Earth final month. The three-month mission was China’s longest-duration human spaceflight thus far, however Shenzhou 13 will wreck that file, racking up six months aboard Tianhe (“Harmony of the Heavens”).
Shenzhou 13 will break new floor in one other approach as properly: Wang will become the first woman to dwell aboard the core module. (The Shenzhou 12 crewmembers had been all males.)
This is the second spaceflight for the 41-year-old Wang. She additionally flew on Shenzhou 10, which visited China’s Tiangong 1 prototype space lab for 2 weeks in 2013.
Zhai, 55, can also be a spaceflight veteran, having served on the Shenzhou 7 mission in 2008. During that three-day flight, he performed China’s first-ever spacewalk.
Shenzhou 13 is the primary spaceflight for Ye, who’s 41.
“I feel very proud,” Ye mentioned throughout a prelaunch press conference on Thursday (Oct. 14). (He spoke in Mandarin; the interpretation was supplied by the Chinese TV community CGTN.)
“For me personally, this is a great challenge, but I have every confidence to complete this mission successfully,” Ye added.
Zhai, Wang and Ye will probably be busy throughout their six months in orbit. They’ll spend a variety of time testing and validating applied sciences that can enable China to complete building of the brand new space station, which known as Tiangong (“Heavenly Palace”). That station will encompass three modules; the opposite two are anticipated to launch towards the 54-foot-long (16.6 meters) Tianhe subsequent yr.
For instance, the Shenzhou 13 crew will transfer the robotic Tianzhou 2 cargo spacecraft from one Tianhe docking port to a different utilizing the module’s robotic arm, Chinese officers mentioned. Tianzhou 2 arrived at Tianhe in May, delivering provides for the Shenzhou 12 crew.
Zhai, Wang and Ye can even conduct quite a lot of experiments onboard Tianhe, together with work designed to advance space medication and scientists’ understanding of microgravity physics. And researchers on the bottom will preserve shut tabs on the trio’s well being, to study extra about how long-duration spaceflight impacts individuals mentally and bodily. The crew can even conduct two or three spacewalks through the Shenzhou 13 mission, Chinese space officers mentioned.
A total of 11 launches are wanted to construct Tiangong, which is able to find yourself being about 20% as huge because the International Space Station. With Shenzhou 13 now aloft, 5 of these launches are within the books.
Two of the remaining launches will probably be crewed missions (Shenzhou 14 and Shenzhou 15), two will ship Tianzhou cargo craft up, and two will loft the opposite Tiangong modules, that are referred to as Mengtian and Wentian.
And, in case you had been questioning: Tianzhou and Shenzhou translate as “Heavenly Vessel” and “Divine Vessel,” respectively. Mengtian and Wentian imply “Dreaming of the Heavens” and “Quest for the Heavens,” respectively.
Mike Wall is the creator of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a guide in regards to the seek for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.