Chinese astronauts enter space station following docking

October 19, 2016
In this image taken off the screen at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 and released by Xinhua News Agency, two Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng, left and Chen Dong salute in the space lab Tiangong 2. China says a pair of astronauts aboard have entered the country's orbiting space station for a month-long stay. Chinese character on bottom left reads "Inside Tiangong." (Ju Zhenhua/Xinhua via AP)

A pair of Chinese astronauts entered the country's orbiting space station for a month-long stay early Wednesday, as China's sixth and longest crewed mission gets underway in earnest.

The Shenzhou 11 spacecraft that blasted off Monday morning docked with the Tiangong 2 station using an automated maneuver worked out during missions to an earlier experimental station.

Having changed from his into blue overalls, veteran mission commander Jing Haipeng opened the hatch and entered the station shortly after 6 a.m. Beijing time (2200 GMT), followed by astronaut Chen Dong, who is making his first journey into space, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

"The two astronauts extended greetings to all the people of the nation in the space lab, and checked the status of the space complex," Xinhua said.

The space station launched Sept. 15 is orbiting about 393 kilometers (244 miles) above the earth.

The mission displays the growing sophistication of the country's manned program that first launched a human into space 13 years ago.

During their 30-day stay, the astronauts will conduct experiments in medicine and space-related technologies, and test systems and processes in preparation for the launching of the station's core module in 2018. A fully functioning space station is on course to begin full operations six years from now and slated to run for at least a decade.

China's manned space program has also conducted a spacewalk, while the lunar program recently decommissioned its Yutu rover and is considering sending a crew to the moon.

The Tiangong, or "Heavenly Palace," space stations are considered stepping stones to a mission to send a rover to Mars by the end of the decade. Communications with the disused Tiangong 1 station have been cut and it is expected to burn up on entering the atmosphere next year.

China was excluded from the International Space Station mainly due to U.S. legislation barring such cooperation and concerns over the Chinese space program's strongly military character.

Chinese officials are now looking to internationalize their own program by offering to help finance other countries' missions to Tiangong 2, which, at 60 tons when completed, would still be considerably smaller than the 420-ton ISS.

Explore further: China launches its longest crewed space mission yet (Update)

Related Stories

China launches its longest crewed space mission yet (Update)

October 17, 2016

Two Chinese astronauts began the country's longest crewed space mission yet on Monday, blasting off on a spacecraft for a 30-day stay on an experimental space station as China steadfastly navigates its way to becoming a space ...

China launches second space station, Tiangong 2

September 15, 2016

China has launched its second space station in a sign of the growing sophistication of its military-backed program that intends to send a mission to Mars in the coming years.

China to launch second space laboratory: report

September 14, 2016

China will launch its second space lab on Thursday, official media said Wednesday, as the Communist country works towards setting up its own space station, among several ambitious goals.

Recommended for you

Electric blue thrusters propelling BepiColombo to Mercury

November 16, 2018

In mid-December, twin discs will begin glowing blue on the underside of a minibus-sized spacecraft in deep space. At that moment Europe and Japan's BepiColombo mission will have just come a crucial step closer to Mercury.

Overflowing crater lakes carved canyons across Mars

November 16, 2018

Today, most of the water on Mars is locked away in frozen ice caps. But billions of years ago it flowed freely across the surface, forming rushing rivers that emptied into craters, forming lakes and seas. New research led ...

SpaceX gets nod to put 12,000 satellites in orbit

November 16, 2018

SpaceX got the green light this week from US authorities to put a constellation of nearly 12,000 satellites into orbit in order to boost cheap, wireless internet access by the 2020s.

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

jjit
not rated yet Oct 19, 2016
The picture looks fake---as it has both astronauts' feet flatly on the floor below them. If they were in microgravity they should be floating. Are they really in the space station??

there are tube on the ground for fix position
watch this video at 6:15 www. youtube. com/watch?v=Kn1l3eq0d0U
mawil1013
5 / 5 (1) Oct 19, 2016
I sense a little Space envy from BartV. Obvious image of their feet tucked under straps on floor. Bifocal time Bart!
Cave_Man
not rated yet Oct 27, 2016
We really should foster cooperation instead of exclusion. What a waste to build a whole other station and probably run the same tests as in the ISS.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.