Three Chinese astronauts, or taikonauts, arrived Sunday morning at the Tianhe core module of the unfinished Tiangong space station, where they will stay for six months to help complete construction (via space.com† The Shenzhou 14 spacecraft departed from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert at 10:44 PM ET (10:44 AM local time) Saturday and docked at Tianhe at 5:42 PM ET (5:42 PM local time). .
The crew of three consists of Chen Dong, Cai Xuzhe and Liu Yang, who originally made history as the first Chinese woman in space during the country’s 2012 Shenzhou 9 mission. the crew expects to take several spacewalks and prepare the station for the arrival of two additional lab modules, with the Wentian module launching next month and the Mengtian in October. As noted by space.comthe two modules will be attached on opposite sides of the Tianhe core module to create a T-shaped station that will be smaller than the International Space Station (ISS).
China aims to complete construction of Tiangong by the end of this year, with the launch of the Xuntian telescope module planned for 2023. Shenzhou 14 is China’s third manned mission to the space station since the launch of the Tianhe module in April 2021. This latest trio will welcome the Shenzhou 15 crew aboard the station by the end of this year, marking the first time that the station can accommodate six people.