China Launches Crewed Shenzhou-14 Mission to Complete Space Station Construction

China launched crewed spaceship Shenzhou-14 on June 5, sending three astronauts to its space station for a six-month mission. The spaceship, atop a Long March-2F carrier rocket, lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 10:44 a.m., according to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA).

The Shenzhou-14 mission is the 23rd flight since the approval and launch of the country’s manned space program, and the third crewed mission for China’s space station project. It is also the first manned space mission in the construction phase of China’s space station.

Three “taikonauts” – Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe – will supervise the next phase of construction of China’s first space station during the Shenzhou-14 mission. Liu Yang became China’s first female astronaut in space in 2012 on the Shenzhou-9.

Chen Dong (C), Liu Yang (R) and Cai Xuzhe (Source: Xinhua)

After completing all preparations according to procedure, astronaut Chen Dong successfully opened the doors of Tianhe, the core module of China’s space station. At 20:50, the three Chinese astronauts aboard entered the core module.

The trio is slated to carry out the verification of big and small robotic arms, perform spacewalks, and the continue construction of payload outside the cabin. The crew will also work with the ground team to complete the assembly and construction of the Tiangong space station.

The Tianzhou-4 and core modules are in normal condition with all equipment working properly, ready for rendezvous and docking, and the entry of astronauts. Following the launch of Shenzhou-14, the lab module Wentian is scheduled to arrive in July, the lab module Mengtian in October, and then the Tianzhou-5 cargo craft and the Shenzhou-15 crewed spaceship later this year.

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The trio will cooperate with the ground team to complete the assembly and construction of the core module Tianhe and two lab modules, Wentian and Mengtian. More space lectures will also be conducted like those carried out by Shenzhou-13.