China will send three additional astronauts to its new space station in June, after the crew that returned from orbit last weekend has returned.
Hao Chun, director at the China Manned Space Engineering Office, stated that the crew of the Shenzhou 14 capsule would spend six months on Tiangong adding two modules to the station.
China’s ambitious space program sent its first astronaut into orbit in 2003. It also landed robot rovers at the moon and Mars last year. Officials are considering a crewed mission to orbit the moon.
In April 2021, the Tiangong’s core module, or Heavenly Palace, launched. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of this year, according to plans.
Hao stated that the launch of the Wentian module and the Mengtian module will take place in July and October.
Hao stated that three additional astronauts from Shenzhou 15 will be sent aboard Shenzhou 14 to continue their six-month stay. Hao said that the two crews would overlap for between three and five days. This marks the first time six people have been aboard the station.
The crew of Shenzhou 13, a 13-member crew, landed Saturday in the Gobi desert in Inner Mongolia’s northern region.
Wang Yaping, an astronaut from China, was the first woman to perform a spacewalk. Commander Zhai Zhigang Wang and Ye Guangfu, his crewmate, also transmitted physics lessons to high school students.
China was the third country to send an astronaut into space, after the United States and Soviet Union. After predecessors that were launched in 2011 or 2016, Tiangong is China’s third space station.
China’s first reusable spacecraft was announced by the government in 2020 after a test flight, but no photos or details were released.
China has been excluded from the International Space Station because of American concerns that China’s space program is being run by the People’s Liberation Army, a military wing of the Communist Party.