Shenzhou-14 Astronauts Begin Their Mission of 6 Months in Space

Screen image captured at Beijing Aerospace Control Center on June 5, 2022 shows three Chinese astronauts, Chen Dong (C), Liu Yang (R) and Cai Xuzhe, waving after entering the space station core module Tianhe. (Xinhua/Li Xin)

The Shenzhou-14 mission, carrying three Chinese astronauts, docked successfully earlier this week with the Tiangong-3 space station. During their six-month mission on board the station, the new crew hopes to continue work on construction of the orbital Chinese outpost, which will be about one-fifth the size of the International Space Station.  

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The Big Spaceflight Stories You Should be Watching in 2022

Credit: (clockwise from upper left) NASA/NASA/SpaceX/ESA/VCRO/Saggitarius A; Wikimedia/

The year 2021 was a big one as far as stories from space are concerned! From start to finish, 2021 witnessed innumerable milestones and groundbreaking missions mounted by space agencies and the commercial space industry. Among them, the long-awaited launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, the arrival of the Perseverance mission, the launch of Double-Asteroid Redirect Test (DART), multiple test flights with the Starship, and the inauguration of space tourism. There was something for everyone!

However, looking at what’s planned for the year ahead, one might get the impression that 2021 was the appetizer and 2022 is the main course! That may sound like an idle boast, but not when you consider all of the ambitious missions, programs, and developments that are scheduled and anticipated for the next twelve months! So exactly what’s in store for space in 2022? We’ve provided a helpful list below:

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China’s First Space Station Crew is Back From Orbit

Credit: Xinhua/CMS

On Friday, Sept. 17th, three Chinese astronauts returned safely from space following a three-month stay aboard the new Tiangong space station. This was a major milestone for the Chinese Manned Space (CMS) program, which beats its previous record for the longest crewed mission to space. Whereas the Shenzhou 11 mission (2016) lasted 33 days, the crew of Tang Hongbo, Nie Haisheng, and Liu Boming spent a total of 92 days in orbit.

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China Wants to Build a Spaceship That’s Kilometers Long

The first Long March 5 rocket being rolled out for launch at Wenchang in late October 2016. Credit: Su Dong/China Daily

It’s no secret that China has become a major contender when it comes to spaceflight. In the past twenty years, the China National Space Agency (CNSA) has accomplished some historic firsts. This includes sending astronauts to space, deploying three space stations (as part of the Tiangong program), developing heavy launch vehicles (like the Long March 5), and sending robotic explorers to the far side of the Moon and Mars.

Looking ahead to the next decade and beyond, China is planning on taking even bolder steps to develop its space program. Among the many proposals the country’s leaders are considering for its latest 5-year plan, one involved creating an “ultra-large spacecraft spanning kilometers.” Having this spacecraft in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) would be a game-changer for China, allowing for long-duration missions and the utilization of space resources.

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The First Chinese Crew is Busy on their New Space Station

Credit: Xinhua via AFP

On Thursday, June 17th, China took another major step in its ongoing drive to become a superpower in space. Just two months after the core module of the Tiangong space station (literally, “Heavenly Palace”) was sent to orbit, the three astronauts that will be the station’s first crew launched to space. The mission, Shenzhou 12, lifted off atop a Long March-2F rocket at 09:22 p.m. on Wednesday evening local time (09:22 a.m. EDT; 06:22 a.m. PDT) from the Jiuquan launch center in the Gobi desert.

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