November 28, 2021

Successful take-off for Shenzhou-13, China’s longest manned space mission

Lhe three astronauts will stay in Tianhe (“Celestial Harmony”), the only module already in orbit of the three that will eventually constitute the space station.

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They and she will be in space for six months, a record for China. Three astronauts, including a woman, took off for the construction site of the Chinese space station, on the night of Friday 15 to Saturday 16 October. Their Shenzhou-13 spacecraft was propelled by a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan launch center in the Gobi Desert, according to images broadcast live by public television CCTV.

At about 350-400 km altitude, the three astronauts will stay in Tianhe (“Celestial Harmony”), the only module already in orbit of the three that will eventually constitute the space station. For six months, they will have to continue building the station, check the various equipment, but also conduct scientific experiments, in particular by providing valuable information on how their body adapts to this long stay. They will also perform two or even three spacewalks.

Their stay will double the duration record for a Chinese manned mission, just set in September by the astronauts of the previous mission, Shenzhou-12. The latter had stayed three months in Tianhe. This extended stay should make it possible to “gain experience in long-term missions”, explains to AFP Erik Seedhouse, professor specializing in space operations at the University of Aeronautics Embry-Riddle in the United States. “The main difficulty for astronauts will be to maintain their muscle mass and reduce their bone loss” in a weightless environment that weakens organisms, he emphasizes.