Shenzhou-11 Docks Successfully with Space Lab
Oct. 19, 2016 (EIRNS)—The Shenzhou-11 docked successfully today with the Tiangong-2 space lab, and the two Chinese astronauts floated into the lab for a 30-day stay, twice as long as the previous Chinese astronauts.
"During the docking process, a series of crucial events occurred in real time and our system needed to respond and act precisely and rapidly. I am very glad that our system has completed all the tasks perfectly,"
said Cui Xiaofeng, assistant chief engineer of Beijing Aerospace Control Center. The astronauts have with them 14 different payloads, including payloads provide by other countries, on which they will conduct 40 different experiments during their month in space.
The two astronauts are 49-year-old Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong. This is the younger Chen’s (in his early 40s) first mission and Jing’s third time in space—a first for a Chinese astronaut —as well as his first mission as commander. Jing Haipeng will be celebrating his 50th birthday during his stay on the Tiangong-2. Jing came from a peasant background and failed his first attempt at becoming an astronaut. When he applied the second time, against the recommendations of his rather impoverished family, the family could only celebrate his achievement with a watermelon, since they were unable to afford more for the occasion.
The Chinese made this into a major television event, including a press interview with the astronauts themselves and ongoing coverage of the preparations, discussion of the nature of the experiments and the characteristics of the launch vehicle, with visual footage of the launch, including cameras in the capsule as the astronauts made their way into space. This is a real move away from the more restrained arrangements made during previous launches. The China National Space Administration has also announced that they will be conducting space launches several times a year rather than every few years, as has previously been the case, marking a qualitatively new stage in China’s space exploration.