Tuesday, June 11, 2013

China Launches Astronaut Trio to Tiangong-1 Space Station

A trio of Chinese astronauts are on their way to the Tiangong-1 space station following launch from The Gobi Desert.

The Shenzhou-10 spacecraft carrying mission Commander Nie Haisheng, first-time space flyer Zhang Xiaoguang, and fellow rookie Wang Yaping, lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in The Gobi Desert at 10:38 a.m. GMT atop a Long March 2F rocket bound for the Chinese space station.

Tiangong-1 was launched in 2011 and weighs 8.5 tonnes. Last year it hosted the three-person Shenzhou-9 crew, which included the first Chinese woman in space, Liu Yang, in a mission lasting just under 2 weeks. This will be the third and final mission to the station, with the crew aboard Shenzhou 10 expected to remain aboard the orbital outpost for 15 days. The astronauts are expected to reach the station around 44 hours after launch.
Launch of Shenzhou-10

The mission highlight will be the docking between the Shenzhou-10 spacecraft and the Tiangong-1 space station. This will combine with the work done during the crew's stay on orbit in order to allow teams on the ground to see how a future space station may be constructed, managed and operated.

If all goes according to plan, the trio will arrive at Tiangong-1 on June 13, and will spend ten days docked to the Chinese outpost. A second docking between both spacecraft is expected to be performed during the mission, in order to study the Shenzhou docking system ahead of future flights.

The three astronauts are expected to return to Earth on June 26.

Crew Profile

Nie Haisheng

Born in Yangdang town of Zaoyang, Hubei Province, Nie graduated from high school and joined the Army Air Force and became a fighter pilot. Selected for the Chinese spaceflight program in 1998, Nie Haisheng was one of the three candidates in contention to make China's first manned spaceflight aboard Shenzhou-5.

The Shenzhou-10 crew
credit: Xinhua
Nie was selected as a member of the Shenzhou-6 mission alongside Fèi Jùnlóng, in a mission that lasted nearly five days.

Shenzhou-10 will be Nie's second trip to low-Earth orbit, and after the mission is completed, he is expected to have logged nearly 20 days in space. After the mission is completed, Nie will have spent more time in space than any other Chinese astronaut.

""Maybe I will hold that record for a while.. but it will soon be broken by other newcomers."

Zhang Xiaoguang

Zhang was born in Liaoning province and was a squadron commander in the People’s Liberation Army Air Force when he was selected to be an astronaut in 1998. He had accumulated 1000 flight-hours as of 2004.

This will be his first spaceflight.

Wang Yaping

Captain Wang Yaping was born in the prefecture of Yantai, in Shandong province in April 1978.
She is a Chinese military pilot and astronaut. She will become the second Chinese woman in space, following in the footsteps of Liu Yang who flew to Tiangong-1 nearly a year ago aboard Shenzhou-9.