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China Space Travelers Head for Heavenly Palace-1

Credit: CMSE

China’s latest, milestone making, space voyage is underway.

The June 16th liftoff of the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft placed into Earth orbit a three-person crew that included China’s first female space traveler.

China’s astronauts for the flight are: Jing Haipeng, Liu Wang and Liu Yang – China’s first female astronaut. She is 33 years old, married and joined the Air Force in 1997. Liu was a veteran pilot with 1,680 hours of flying experience and the deputy head of a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) flight unit before being recruited as a prospective astronaut in May 2010. She is now an Air Force major.

In an alignment of time and space, Liu becoming the first Chinese female into orbit also signaled a retrofire in space history.

Soviet Cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova, was the first woman into Earth orbit – 49 years ago to the day of Liu’s takeoff!

The objective of the mission is to rendezvous and dock with the already orbiting Tiangong-1—or Heavenly Palace-1 – experimental spacelab. This mission is seen as a stepping stone flight, one that leads to building a much larger space station complex.

The Tiangong-1was boosted into orbit in September 2011, with an unpiloted Shenzhou 8 docking with it twice in November.

Shortly after the Shenzhou 9 liftoff, Chang Wanquan, Chief Commander of China Manned Space Engineering Project announced that the Shenzhou 9 spaceship had accurately entered its orbit and the crew members were in good condition, calling the spaceship launch a great success.

Shenzhou 9 blasted off at from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi desert.

What’s next?

Following two days of space travel, the Shenzhou 9 will accomplish auto rendezvous and docking with Tiangong-1 target vehicle.

When the complex is formed after the auto rendezvous and docking of Shenzhou 9 with Tiangong-1, the astronauts will enter into the experimental module of Tiangong-1 target vehicle through a docking passage and begin working and living there.

If all goes according to plan — in the middle phase of the flight of the complex — astronaut manual rendezvous and docking will be implemented.

First, the two vehicles will be separated. Then the astronauts will control the spaceship autonomously and realize manual rendezvous and docking with the target vehicle and form the complex again.

After finishing the scheduled missions, the two vehicles will be separated for a second time. The Shenzhou 9 spaceship will reenter to a landing site. The target vehicle will be maneuvered, back to a long-term operation orbit.

According to Chinese news reports, the entire mission of Shenzhou 9 is two weeks.

By Leonard David


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