Three Chinese astronauts launched into orbit on Thursday morning local time for a three-month mission to the nation’s first permanent space station. It will be the longest human space mission in Chinese history, and the country’s first crewed fight in nearly five years.
The mission is commanded by Nie Haisheng, 56, who has logged more than 19 days in space on two previous flights. Nie, who is a major general in the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, was joined by Liu Boming, 54, who will be flying to space for the second time, and rookie astronaut Tang Hongbo, 45.
Three astronauts will launch on Thursday morning local time aboard the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft for a three-month long mission to China’s first permanent space station. It will be the longest human space mission in Chinese history, and the country’s first crewed fight in nearly five years.
Launch of the crew aboard a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center is scheduled for June 17 at 0122 UTC (June 16 at 9:22 p.m. EDT).
For eight years, they thundered aloft in cramped Russian spacecraft from a former Soviet spaceport in Kazakhstan, battling bureaucracy and gravity to blaze a trail across the heavens and redefine what it meant to be a space traveler. No longer would access to orbit be limited to highly trained astronauts chosen on merit and working on behalf of their nations; instead, space would be open to any sufficiently healthy people with enough money and moxie to qualify.
For the sixth tine in its history, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will be recruiting astronauts as it gears up to support America’s plan to return people to the moon in 2024.
“We are preparing to recruit new astronauts around the fall of next year. We hope that many of you will apply to become astronauts who can also play an active role in lunar exploration,” said JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata in an announcement posted on the space agency’s website.
JAXA has hired 11 astronauts in five recruitment cycles dating back to 1985. The most recent round was in 2009 when three astronaut candidates were hired.
A total of 12 Japanese citizens have flown in space. Television journalist Toyohiro Akiyama became the first from his nation to reach orbit when he flew to the Soviet space station Mir aboard a Soyuz spacecraft in 1990. Akiyama, who spent nearly 8 days in space, was not part of the Japan’s official astronaut corps.
China de-orbited its Tiangong-2 space station on Friday, ending a precursor mission to the establishment of a large, multi-module station beginning in 2020.
Launched on Sept. 15, 2016, Tiangong-2 hosted a 30-day visit by astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong beginning the following month. The Shenzhou 11 crew tested out the station’s life support and other systems, performed experiments, released a satellite, and grew rice and vegetables before returning to Earth after 33 days in space.
In April 2017, the Tianzhou-1 cargo ship docked with the space station. The automated ship refueled Tiangong-1 and un-docked and re-docked with the station twice in the months that followed. Tianzhou-1 subsequently separated from the station and was de-orbited on Sept. 22, 2017.
Tiangong-2 was 10.4 m (34 ft) long and weighed 8,600 kg (18,960 lb). That is about half the size of the Salyut 1 space station the Soviet Union launched in 1971.
The station’s predecessor, Tiangong-1, hosted six Chinese astronauts during two crew visits in 2012 and 2013.
China plans to launch the Tianhe-1 core module for a permanent space station in 2020. Two laboratory modules would be subsequently attached to the station over the next two to three years. The facility will be roughly the size of the Mir space station built by the Soviet Union beginning in 1986 and about one-fifth the mass of the International Space Station.
China has opened up its human spaceflight program to other nations. European astronauts have been training for flights to the new space station aboard Shenzhou vehicles. And China has offered to fly foreign experiments to the facility.
HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The largest and most complex international construction project in space began on the steppes of Kazakhstan 20 years ago today. Atop its Proton rocket, on Nov. 20, 1998, the Zarya Functional Cargo Block (FGB) thundered off its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome into cold wintry skies. Zarya was built by the Khrunichev in Moscow and served as a temporary control module for the nascent ISS.
In recent weeks, Chinese officials have revealed more details about the investigation into the Long March 5 launch failure last year as well as their ambitious launch plans for this year, which include a landing on the far side of the moon.
Long March 5 will be returned to flight in the second half of 2018, according to Bao Weimin, head of the Science and Technology Committee of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). Engineers have identified the cause of a launch failure that occurred last July and are working to verify it, he said.
With it being Saturday already back on the East Coast, former MirCorp CEO and convicted tax evader Walt Anderson is now a free man. And the Space Frontier Foundation is partying like its 1999.
Anderson, whose company MirCorp leased the Russian space station Mir during that final year of the 20th century, has been under house arrest at his parents home in Virginia since July as part of a nearly 8-year prison term in what the federal government has called the largest individual tax evasion case in history. He served most of the term in a federal prison in New Jersey.
The Space Frontier Foundation — which benefited from Anderson’s financial largess prior to his stay in the Big House — is having a “Flaming Mir” party in his honor on Saturday night at a restaurant in McLean, Virginia. The foundation is paying for drinks, light appetizers and desserts only, and it recommends attendees eat dinner before arriving. The RSVP email is email@example.com
MirCorp founder Walt Anderson is working on a cloud computing start-up as he approaches the end of a nearly 8-year prison term for tax evasion, according to a message posted on the Justice for Walt website.
I am now back in the real world. I am currently on “home detention” at my parent’s homne [sic] in Virginia. I will be completely done with this ordeal on December 29, 2012. Unil [sic] December 29, 2012 I will not be able to travel outside the Washington DC area, but I have lots of things to work on here for now.
“Orphans of Apollo” to Screen @ ThrillSpy International Film Festival Goethe Theater Washington D.C. Friday October 9th, 3 p.m. http://www.thrillspy.org/
The Space Show Dr. David Livingston’s taped interviews with MirCorpÂ CEO Walt Anderson from inside the Fairton Correctional Facility in New Jersey. Sunday, October 11, 12-1:30 PM PDT http://www.thespaceshow.com/
Over the last six months, there have been several new legal developments in the case of space commercialization pioneer Walt Anderson, who is serving a 9-year sentence for tax fraud at a federal prison in New Jersey. The legal developments have renewed call from Anderson’s vocal supporters that the entrepreneur is innocent and should be released from prison.
Alan Boyle has reviewed Michael Potter’s film, “Orphans of Apollo,” for his Comic Log website. He reviews the lessons that the failed effort to commercialize the Mir space station taught people:
The biggest lesson is that you want to have the government as your customer, not your enemy. “I think the slightly more commercial and realistic and politically savvy entrepreneurs who are now investing in private space understood where Walt went wrong,” David Chambers, who was MirCorp’s vice president of strategic planning, says in the movie. “And they’re prepared to play nice with the various governments that they need to play nice with.”