Shenzhou 12 on Long March-2F rocket

China has successfully launched the seventh crewed flight - Shenzhou 12 spaceship on a Long March-2F rocket on June 17th, 2021. It is the first flight mission to dock with the Tianhe core module of Tiangong space station (the Chinese space station), which marked as the milestone in China's aerospace history.

Three Chinese astronauts from People's Liberation Army Astronaut Corps, Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming, and Tang Hongbo, took the Shenzhou 12 spaceship and entered the Tianhe module. With a stay of about 90 days 236 miles above the earth, it will be China's longest crewed mission ever.

What Does Shenzhou Mean in Chinese?

Shenzhou (Chinese character: "神舟" ) means "divine vessel" in English. The Shenzhou programme was enacted since 1992. The series of Shenzhou spacecrafts have been designed with full intellectual property of China. Having been barred from working with NASA for decades, now China has not only the crewed spacecrafts, but also its own space station - Tiangong space station, which will be the only space station after the International Space station retired in 2024.

China has been launched 12 spacecrafts successfully since 1999 until now. Seven of them have been crewed.

No. Launch Date Return Date Crew Time of Flight
Shenzhou 1 1999-11-20 06:30 1999-11-21 03:41 Unmanned 21h11m
Shenzhou 2 2001-01-10 01:00 2001-01-16 19:22 Unmanned 6d18h22m
Shenzhou 3 2002-03-25 22:15 2002-04-01 16:54 Carried dummy man 6d18h39m
Shenzhou 4 2002-12-30 00:40 2003-01-05 19:16 Carried dummy man 6d18h36m
Shenzhou 5 2003-10-15 09:00 2003-10-16 06:28 Yang Liwei 21h28m
Shenzhou 6 2005-10-12 09:00 2005-10-17 04:32 Fei Junlong, Nie Haisheng 4d19h32m
Shenzhou 7 2008-09-25 21:10 2008-09-28 17:37 Zhai Zhigang, Liu Boming, Jing Haipeng 2d20h30m
Shenzhou 8 2011-11-01 05:58 2011-11-17 19:32 Carried dummy man 18d
Shenzhou 9 2012-06-16 18:37 2012-06-29 10:03 Jing Haipeng, Liu Wang, Liu Yang 12d
Shenzhou 10 2013-06-11 17:38 2013-06-26 08:07 Nie Haisheng, Zhang Xiaoguang, Wang Yaping 15d
Shenzhou 11 2016-10-17 07:30 2016-11-18 13:33 Jing Haipeng, Chen Dong 32d
Shenzhou 12 2021-06-17 09:22 - Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming, Tang Hongbo 3 months

What Is the Mission of Shenzhou 12 ?

Shenzhou 12

The mission of Shenzhou 12 is to bring the Tianhe module into service. To fulfil the task, the three astronauts have a lot of work to do in the 3 months.

Daily management for the core module assembly

  • Take the Tianhe core module to be in orbit test.
  • Test regenerative life support system.
  • Test the mechanical arm to support operation training.
  • Manage the goods and waste materials.

Two extravehicular activity and operation

The crew will have two chances to get out of the craft to carry out series of operations in orbit, including transfer and assemble the spacesuit and tool cabinet, lift the panoramic cameras, etc.

Take scientific experiments and technical test

The experiments and tests refer to space application and aerospace medicine. Not only those experiments, there are science education activities also.

Health management of the astronauts

The crew will spend daily life in the craft just like on the earth. They will monitor their own health condition and make the assessment themselves.

Shenzhou 12 Tracking

  • 2021.04.29                       Launched China's Tianhe space station core module
  • 2021.05.16                       Tianhe core module verified on-orbit test
  • 2021.05.29                       Tianzhou 2 cargo spacecraft has been launched successfully
  • 2021.05.30                       Tianzhou 2 cargo spacecraft has docked with Tianhe core module successfully
  • 2021.06.17  09:22 a.m.   Shenzhou 12 carried three astronauts to the space
  • 2021.06.17  03:54 p.m.   Shenzhou 12 docked with Tianhe core module automously
  • 2021.06.17  06:48 p.m.   Three astronauts entered China space station firstly
  • 2021.06.19                       Shenzhou 13 on standby
  • 2021.06.23                       China's President Xi Jinping made a call from Beijing Aerospace Control Center with the three astronauts in the space to congratulate the successful launch of Shenzhou 12. He was also concerned about the health condition of the crew.

What's New for the Lauch of Shenzhou 12?

Tianhe module

Docked with the first China space station, the Shenzhou 12 will act as a key connecting link between the preceding and the following of China's aerospace history, according to the introduction of Ji Qiming, the assistant of director of China Manned Space Engineering Office. There are five missions will be conducted for the first time in the coming days.

First autonomous docking with space station and the manned spacecraft

The Shenzhou 12 has docked with the space station autonomously 6.5 hours after the launch on June 17th.

First flying-around the space station and intersection in radical direction

The Shenzhou 12 is applied for a more complicated flight mode that supports the craft to dock and sperate intersection with the space station in forward, backward, and radical direction.

First docking on orbit for long term

The craft will be able to stay on orbit for 3 months. Before Shenzhou 12, the longest stay in orbit of the previous series of Shenzhou spacecrafts is 32 days for Shenzhou 11 launched in 2016.

Firstly be able to return to the earth at different height

Before Shenzhou 12, the crewed spacecraft flew back to the earth on the settled track. But now, it is able to return to the earth at different height, as long-term stay will change the height of the craft.

First emergency rescue mode with multiple guarantee

To protect astronauts's safety of life, the Shenzhou team created a mode of emergency rescue to ensure the three astronauts to be able to board on the backup spaceship to return home.

Who Are the Three Astronauts?

Chinese astronauts

The Chinese autorities did not bring out the identities of the astronauts until a press conference on June 16th. The crew includes Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming, and Tang Hongbo. Excpet Tang Hongbo, both Nie Haisheng and Liu Boming have gone into orbit before.

Nie Haisheng is the Commander of the crew on Shenzhou 12 spaceship. It is his third time to take the manned space mission since 2005. He has completed the task of Shenzhou-6 in 2005, and acted as the commander of Shenzhou-10 in 2013.

Born in 1964, Mr Nie has been selected as an astronaut of the first batch for China's space programme when he was 34. He was one of the backup members of Shenzhou 5 spaceship, which was the first manned spaceship of China launched in 2003. With two times of successful experiences and extraordinary personal quality, Mr Nie is like the key stand in the crew.

Liu Boming, also one of the first batch of astronauts that selected for China's space programme in 1998, took the flight mission of Chinese manned spaceship the second time. It is his intelligence and wisdom that makes him outstanding among the crew.

It is the first time for Tang Hongbo to be in the flight crew. He is the youngest member in the crew that born in 1975. Selected in the second batch for China's space programme in 2010, he has been trained to be a qualified astronaut for 10 years.

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