China returned to space plus three at 5:38 a.m. EDT (9:38 GMT and 5:38 p.m. local time), as the Shenzhou 10 launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, located in the Gobi desert. The three-person crew—Nie Haisheng, Zhang Xiaoguang, and Wang Yaping (the second Chinese woman in space)—successfully launched atop China’s Long March 2F rocket, the country’s heaviest launcher currently in use. This marks China’s fifth manned crew to reach orbit.
The crew of Shenzhou 10 is set to rendezvous and dock with the Tiangong 1 module twice during its mission; one docking will be manual and one will be performed automatically, according to Wu Ping, a spokeswoman for China’s space agency. The Tiangong 1 module has been in orbit since September 2011. In June of last year, the first Chinese three-person crew docked with the module, which has been described as having half the mass of Salyut 1, the Soviet Union’s first space station. Tiangong 1 functions as a sort of “space lab” in orbit, where research into microgravity is conducted.
The three “taikonauts” intend to beam lessons to students from space while conducting studies on living and working in orbit. Nie is a space veteran, having already been in space under five days during the Shenzhou 6 mission in 2005. This is the first mission for both Zhang and Wang. Zhang, the mission’s pilot, is responsible for docking and rendezvous. Wang, who intends to gives lessons to Chinese elementary and middle school students while in orbit, is a military pilot and was the first female astronaut named by the Chinese authorities (Liu Yang became the first Chinese woman in space on Shenzhou 9 in 2012).
This mission is scheduled to take place over 15 days. There are now nine space travelers from around the world in orbit at present time, both on Tiangong 1 and the International Space Station.
For updates and further information about the flight of Shenzhou 10, visit China Space’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ChinaSpace
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