According to the statement made by the China Manned Space Program Agency (CMSA), the Shincou-16 space shuttle carrying taikonauts Cing Hayping, Cu Yangcu and Gui Hayçao docked with the core module of the space station.
After a 6.5-hour journey, the taikonauts who arrived at the station switched from the shuttle to the module and entered the space station.
Shincou-16 was launched from the Ciucuen Satellite Center in the Gobi Desert with a “Long March-2F” rocket in the morning.
With the Shincou-16 expedition, China sent a civilian taikonaut into space for the first time.
Gui, a professor of aerospace engineering at Beyhang University, known as Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, was “China’s first civilian to send into space.”
Until now, only taikonauts selected from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force have served in the Chinese space program.
Gui, an expert in space shuttle dynamics and payload, will be responsible for the operation of materials and equipment in orbit to be used for science experiments and tests.
Cing Hayping, who assumed the command of the expedition, had previously served as Shincou-7, Shincou-9 and Shincou-11. Cing, 56, a soldier with the rank of major general, became “the first person among Chinese taikonauts to go into space for the fourth time”.
Cu, the other soldier in the team, is taking on the task of flight engineer and operator in the space expedition he participated for the first time.
China’s plan to build a space station
China is working to establish its own space station, as the United States forbids cooperation in space exploration and prevents its participation in the International Space Station (ISS) program.
The planned “Tiengong” (sky palace) station, which is planned to consist of a core module, two laboratory modules and a space telescope, will be approximately the same size as Russia’s now defunct Mir Space Station when completed.
The main part of the station, the core module called “Tienhi” (heavenly harmony), will be launched on April 29, 2021, the first laboratory module “Vintien” (seeking the heavens) on July 24, 2022, and the second laboratory module “Mingtien” (dreaming the heavens) on 31 July. It was launched in October 2022.
With the addition of laboratory modules to the core module, the “T” shaped mainframe of the station was completed, and the “implementation and development phase” began after the installation phase.
The space telescope called “Shuntien” (to travel the skies) is also planned to be added to the station as a separate module.
The three-man taikonaut crew rotates to the station, with the “Shincou” (sacred ship) shuttles transporting personnel, and the “Tiencou” (skyship) shuttles transporting supplies.