On Sunday China’s Manned Space Agency launched three astronauts into orbit to continue construction of the nation’s space station.
The crew consisting of Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe, launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center aboard the Shenzhou-14 spacecraft. The trio will spend the next six months in orbit working on the Tiangong Space Station.
This crew has a hard task ahead of them as China hopes to have the space station operational by the end of December 2022. As reported by CNN, the crew will assist with the docking, setting up and testing of the Wentian and Mengtian lab modules. These modules are expected to arrive at the floating construction site in July and October respectively.
While the space station will be smaller than the International Space Station, it will be China’s own space station and it is several years in the making.
“The Shenzhou-14 mission is a pivotal battle in the construction stage of China’s space station,” Dong said in a press conference. “The task will be tougher, there will be more problems and the challenges will be greater”.
Aside from helping with construction, the crew will also conduct spacewalks during their six month stay. The duration of the stay will also give China insight into the long term effects of living in space.
Toward the end of the mission, Al Jazeera reports that the crew will be joined by members of the Shenzhou-15 mission for up to five days. This will mark the most people on board the space station and it will be a comfy squeeze within the 110 cubic metre core cabin.