October 26th, 2023
China’s Shenzhou 17 mission with three taikonauts launched to the country’s Tiangong space station, docking with the outpost some six hours later.
Liftoff atop a Long March 2F rocket occurred at 11:14 p.m. EDT Oct. 25 (03:14 UTC / 11:14 a.m. Beijing time Oct. 26) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China’s Gobi Desert. Aboard were Tang Hongbo, Tang Shengjie and Jiang Xinlin.
After reaching orbit roughly 10 minutes after launch, the Shenzhou 17 spacecraft spent 6.5 hours catching up with the Tiangong space station, docking with the forward port of the Tianhe core module at 5:46 a.m. EDT (09:46 UTC). They joined the already-aboard crew from Shenzhou 16, which launched in May: Jing Haipeng, Zhu Yangzhu and Gui Haichao.
After a handover period of about a week, the Shenzhou 16 crew is expected to return to Earth, landing in China as early as Oct. 31. The Shenzhou 17 crew is slated to stay aboard the three-module outpost until May. During their mission, they are expected to perform various science experiments and perform maintenance on the outpost.
In particular, according to CBS News, the crew will need to perform a more in-depth inspection after preliminary inspections suggest that the large solar arrays have minor damage from tiny particles of space debris.
Shenzhou 17 is the sixth long-duration mission to Tiangong since 2021 and the 12th overall human spaceflight for China since 2003.
Videos courtesy of SciNews
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.