Shenzhou-12, which means “Divine Vessel,” will be the third of 11 missions needed to complete the Chinese space station by 2022.
A Chinese spacecraft will take off from the Gobi Desert aboard a Long March rocket in the coming days, carrying three men to an orbiting space module for a three-month stay, the first time China has sent humans to the space for almost five years.
Shenzhou-12, which means “Divine Vessel,” will be the third of 11 missions needed to complete the Chinese space station by 2022. Of these, four will be missions with people on board, potentially propelling up to 12 Chinese astronauts. in space – more than the 11 men and women China has sent since 2003.
The craft will also transport the hopes of some in Earth’s most populous nation to space.
“The homeland is powerful,” wrote a person on Chinese social media, who lit up with good wishes for the Shenzhou-12 crew. “The launch is a gift for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party.”
Chinese astronauts have had a relatively low international profile. A US law banning NASA from any connection with China means its astronauts did not visit the more than two-decade-old International Space Station, visited by more than 240 men and women of various nationalities.
China, which aims to become a great space power by 2030, in May became the second country to install a rover on Mars, two years after landing the first spacecraft on the far side of the moon.
He also plans to send astronauts to the moon.
This time the men
The crew of the Shenzhou-12 will live on the Tianhe, “Harmony of the Heavens”, a cylinder 16.6 meters (55 feet) long and 4.2 meters (14 feet) in diameter.
The Shenzhou-12 planned three-month stay would shatter the country’s record of 30 days, set by the 2016 mission – China’s last crewed flight – from Chen Dong and Jing Haipeng to a prototype station.
Three men from the First and Second Chinese Astronaut Groups will participate in the mission, Yang Liwei, director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office and China’s first astronaut, told the official Global Times news agency last month.
Chinese space bloggers believe the astronauts will be Nie Haisheng – who, at 56, is believed to be the oldest Chinese astronaut sent to space, Deng Qingming, 55, and Ye Guangfu, 40.
Authorities usually do not announce the crew of a mission until near or after launch. China Manned Space did not respond to a fax request for comment from Reuters news agency.
The oldest human in space was John Glenn, who flew the space shuttle at the age of 77 in 1998 – after being the first American to orbit Earth in 1962, a senator American and a presidential candidate.
Although no women are scheduled for the Shenzhou-12 mission, they are expected to participate in each subsequent mission, Yang told the Global Times.
Two women, Liu Yang and Wang Yaping, were selected in 2011 from the second Chinese cohort, after the first batch of 14 men in the mid-1990s. Liu was the first Chinese woman in space in 2012, while Wang was the youngest, at 33, in 2013.
China began construction of its space station in April with the launch of Tianhe, the first and largest of its three modules. This year, he aims to send a robotic cargo supply spacecraft and three other astronauts, this time for a six-month stay.