China is to send its youngest crew of astronauts into space on Thursday to its Tiangong space station, China announced. managers, with the ambition to strengthen its knowledge in the area of manned flight. facing the Americans and Russians.
A valuable experience for the Asian giant, which aims to send a Chinese to the Moon by 2030, the major objective of a space program which has been progressing steadily for several decades.
The trio of Shenzhou-17 mission is scheduled to take off Thursday at 11:14 a.m. (03:14 GMT) from the Jiuquan launch center, in the Gobi desert (northwest).
It includes Commander Tang Hongbo, born in October 1975 and aged around forty, his colleague Tang Shengjie (33 years old) as well as Jiang Xinlin (35 years old).
The average age of the crew is 38 years old, compared to 42 years old during the previous Shenzhou-16 mission.
“This is the crew of astronauts with the youngest average age ” since China's beginnings of manned space missions, underlined the Chinese government in a press release.
China has some catching up to do in this area, because it only sent its first human into space in 2003 – a long time after the Soviets and the Americans in 1961.
“These “Over the past two years, I have often dreamed of returning to space,” veteran Tang Hongbo said at a press conference Wednesday with his fellow astronauts.
(l-r) Chinese astronauts Jiang Xinlin, Tang Hongbo and Tang Shengjie during a press conference at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert, October 25, 2023, northwest China ©  ;AFP – Pedro PARDO
“The space station is our other home which takes us away from Earth and takes us into the universe”, added the man who was part of the Shenzhou-12 mission in 2021.
The spacecraft must dock with the central module of the Tiangong station “about six and a half hours” after takeoff, said a spokesperson for the Chinese space program, Lin Xiqiang.
– Civil in the space –
Tiangong, whose construction is now complete, has had its final T-shaped appearance for several months. Similar in size to the former Russian-Soviet station Mir, it is however much smaller as the International Space Station (ISS).
Also known as CSS (for “Chinese Space Station” in English), it must remain in Earth orbit for at least 10 years.
Chinese space station Tiangong © AFP – Laurence CHU
Chinese astronauts ensure crew rotations, permanent occupation of Tiangong, maintenance and research work, as well as a slow expansion of the station's capabilities .
In May, China sent its first civilian astronaut, Gui Haichao, a specialist in space science and engineering, into space as part of a previous mission.
He was not not from the armed forces as was systematically the case before.
China was partly pushed to build its own station due to the refusal of the United States to allow it to participate in the ISS. An American law prohibits almost any collaboration between American and Chinese space authorities.
The Asian giant, however, wishes to carry out international cooperation around Tiangong, particularly for carrying out experiments.
The China has already invested billions of euros in its space program.
The country landed a machine on the far side of the Moon in 2019, a world first. In 2020, it brought back samples from the Moon and finalized Beidou, its satellite navigation system. And in 2021, China landed a small robot on Mars.
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