The first part of the Tiangong space station was launched in April. That is a tube almost 17 meters long and just over four meters wide. There the three have to live, eat, sleep, exercise, work and do research. The crew goes out twice for a spacewalk. In the coming years, two other components must be linked to the first module.
The flight is led by Nie Haisheng (56), who is embarking on his third space flight. He will be joined by Liu Boming (54) and Tang Hongbo (45), two more than originally planned.
The so-called taikonauts stay in the space station for three months. Never before have the Chinese been in space for so long. “This mission is longer and we not only have to install the core, our home in space, but we also have to do some important technical tests. This mission is more difficult and the challenges are greater,” Nie said at the last press conference before departure. Liu speaks of an “extremely complex and arduous mission”, also because of the spacewalks.
Ambitious China has little or no cooperation with other countries in space travel. If the space station is ready around 2023, that may change. “In the near future, we will see both Chinese and foreign astronauts together on the Chinese space station,” said a director of the Chinese space program. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union offered allies space flights. This allowed people from, for example, East Germany, Bulgaria, Vietnam, Cuba, Afghanistan, Mongolia and Syria to go into space.
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