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Tianhe, "Harmony of the Heavens"

Chief Pilot
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Re: Tianhe, "Harmony of the Heavens"

#21 Post by PHXPhlyer » Tue May 30, 2023 2:11 am

China sends first civilian astronaut to space as Shenzhou-16 blasts off ... index.html

China sent its first civilian astronaut into orbit on Tuesday, as it launched the Shenzhou-16 mission to its space station for its second in-orbit crew rotation, marking another step forward for the country’s ambitious space program.

The three Shenzhou-16 astronauts blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the desert of China’s Gansu province at 9:31 a.m. on Tuesday morning, headed for the Tiangong space station orbiting earth.

The crew – Jing Haipeng, Zhu Yangzhu, and Gui Haichao – will take over from the Shenzhou-15 astronauts, who have been abroad China’s newly completed Tiangong space station since November, to start their own five-month stint aboard the station.

It is China’s fifth manned mission to the space station since 2021.

Among the Shenzhou-16 crew, Gui, a professor at China’s prestigious aeronautics institution Beihang University, is the first Chinese civilian to be on a spaceflight. All other astronauts have been members of China’s People’s Liberation Army.

Gui will operate payloads for space experiments, while Jing and Zhu will operate and manage the spacecraft, in addition to carrying out technical tests, the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) said in a press conference on Monday introducing the crew.

Jing, the mission commander, is a space veteran who was among China’s first team of astronauts in 1998 and has already completed three manned flight missions. The mission marks the first space flights for Zhu and Gui, both born in 1986.

Gui’s selection for the crew generated keen interest in Chinese online media, not only for his position as the first civilian astronaut, but because an accessory he was wearing in official photos that’s not typically seen on those headed to space – eyeglasses.

Several media outlets on Monday responded to the online discussion over how a person without perfect vision could be physically cleared for a space mission.

State-run China Daily cited former astronaut Yang Liwei, now a top official in China’s manned space program, explaining that as division of labor on missions became more specialized, there were different criteria for different crew members.

Several articles also detailed the rigorous training Gui underwent in advance of the mission, including desert field survival, sleep deprivation tests, centerfuge training and underwater drills for operational skills.

NASA’s rules for its astronauts states that “distant and near visual acuity must be correctable to 20/20 in each eye”. But it adds: “The use of glasses is acceptable.”

New era begins with China's launch of crewed mission to its space station
The Shenzhou-16 launch comes as China has rapidly been advancing its capabilities in space – including through the establishment of its Tiangong space station, which completed its basic construction last year and is expected to operate and host astronauts for at least a decade.

This could make it the sole in-orbit outpost for scientific research after the expected end of operations for the International Space Station in 2030.

China has sought to open up its station to collaboration with international partners, including by hosting experiments from other countries.

Beijing for years has been leveraging of its rising prowess as a global space power to offer partnerships and development opportunities to other countries its as part of its diplomacy.

While in-orbit construction of the space station’s T-shaped, three-module structure was completed last year, there are plans to expand of the structure and extend its research capabilities in the coming years, according to state media.

Tiangong’s core module first entered orbit in 2021, marking the first major step in a space station dream envisioned by the government since 1992.

The moment was hailed by official media at the time as “formally embarking on the buildup of one of the humanity’s largest and most sophisticated space-based facilities.”

China will have three space missions for its space station application and development in 2023, the CMSA said earlier this year.

In addition to Tuesday’s launch, those include the cargo craft Tianzhou-6, which was launched earlier this month, and the second crewed spaceship Shenzhou-17 later this year.

In its press conference Monday, the CMSA also reiterated China’s plan for a manned lunar landing by 2030.


Chief Pilot
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Re: Tianhe, "Harmony of the Heavens"

#22 Post by PHXPhlyer » Fri Oct 27, 2023 3:02 am

China has sent its youngest-ever astronaut crew to the Tiangong space station ... index.html

Gobi Desert, China

When China’s first astronaut Yang Liwei blasted off into space in 2003, it was a history making moment that declared his country’s arrival as an emerging space power.

Two decades on, China has become a major presence in space – a status that mirrors its growing economic, political and military ascendency on Earth. It now has its own permanent outpost in orbit – a fully operational space station – and routinely rotates crews to live and work there.

On Thursday, three Chinese astronauts lifted off on the Shenzhou-17 spacecraft from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center deep in the Gobi Desert, heading for the Tiangong space station for a six-month stay.

They are the youngest crew China has ever sent to space – with an average age of 38. Among their tasks on board is to repair the solar panels that were damaged by space debris – the first time Chinese astronauts will carry out repair work outside the station.

This is China’s sixth manned mission to its space station since 2021. The new crew will take over from the Shenzhou-16 astronauts, who have been onboard since May.

Before the launch, the crew was sent off in full pageantry, greeted by government officials and supporters lining the road. The three astronauts waved at the crowd, who held up Chinese flags and flowers. A band played patriotic songs and the crowd sang along.

Since his own trip to space, Yang has sent off many Chinese astronauts on their missions. But Thursday’s launch was especially emotional, coming just days after the 20th anniversary of his own historic flight.

“Looking at this launch as a veteran, the first thing I see is how far China’s manned spaceflight has come. Over the past 20 years, it has developed rapidly and made great achievements,” Yang told CNN at the Jiuquan center on Wednesday, ahead of the launch.

Completed late last year, the Tiangong – or “heavenly palace” in Chinese – is one of the two space stations currently in orbit. With a lifespan of 15 years, it could become the only one left when the NASA-led International Space Station (ISS) retires in 2030.

China has already announced plans to expand the Tiangong in coming years, adding three modules to its existing three to allow more astronauts to stay abroad at the same time. Currently, it can house a maximum of three astronauts, compared with seven at the ISS.

Yang said he was thrilled to see a younger generation of Chinese “taikonauts” taking up the baton. “In them, I see the strength of our reserve force, and the hope for the future development of China’s aerospace industry,” he said.

Two of the Shenzhou-17 crew members – Tang Shengjie, 33, and Jiang Xinlin, 35 – are new comers, having joined China’s third batch of astronauts only a little over three years ago.

They are led by Tang Hongbo, 48, who hails from the country’s second batch of astronauts.

Tang, a former fighter jet pilot, was on China’s first crewed mission to its space station in 2021. His return to the Tiangong also set a new record for the shortest interval between two spaceflight missions by Chinese astronauts.

Chinese astronauts Jiang Xinlin, Tang Shengjie and Tang Hongbo, who will carry out the Shenzhou-17 spaceflight mission, at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on October 26.
China’s space ambition
Tiangong has become a symbol of China’s ambition and capabilities in space, after Chinese astronauts were shut out of the ISS, a US-led collaboration with Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada, for more than two decades.

Since 2011, NASA has been effectively banned from cooperating with China, after Congress passed the Wolf Amendment due to espionage-related concerns. That exclusion has at least in part spurred Beijing to build its own space station.

China has sought to open up its station to collaboration with international partners, including by hosting experiments from other countries. And that offer will be all the more appealing after the ISS retires, which is scheduled around 2030.

Leroy Chiao, a former NASA astronaut and ISS commander, said NASA has contracted with different private groups to create commercial space stations that its astronauts could operate in. But “we’ll have to see how all that goes,” he told CNN.

“The other nations that participate in spaceflight, particularly human spaceflight, they’ve been talking to China. And so if they’re the only game in town, that’s the only way that these companies or these countries can participate in human spaceflight, until we get these commercial space stations that are partially funded by NASA into orbit and operational,” Chiao said.

Beijing for years has been leveraging its rising prowess as a global space power to offer partnerships and development opportunities to other countries.

As China and the United States intensify their economic, technological and geopolitical rivalry on Earth, space has become a natural extension – and crucial frontier – in their great power competition.

Following the demise of the Soviet Union’s space program, the US has enjoyed a period of unparalleled leadership in space. But in recent years, US observers and politicians have warned that America’s dominance could soon be challenged by China’s fast-growing space capabilities.

That concern has only deepened with a series of important and high-profile Chinese achievements.

In 2019, China became the first country to land on the far side of the moon. A year later, it successfully put into orbit its final Beidou satellite, setting the stage to challenge the US Global Positioning System (GPS). And in 2021, it became the only country after the US to put a functioning rover on Mars.

China’s ambitions do not end there. Next year, it plans to bring back the first samples ever collected from the moon’s far side. By the end of this decade, it wants to send astronauts to the moon and build an international lunar research station. A number of countries have reportedly joined onto its planned lunar station, including Russia, Venezuela and South Africa.

Chiao, the retired NASA astronaut, said the main challenge now facing China’s space program is to get the operational experience that an organization like NASA has.

“We’ve been operating spacecraft, space shuttle, space station for decades. And we have so much experience and know-how on training astronauts on operating in space – and that’s where they’re playing catch up,” he said.


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