Shenzhou 17: China’s Astronauts Reach Tiangong

Shenzhou 17: A detailed analysis of the Chinese space mission that brought a new crew of astronauts to the Tiangong space station

On October 26, 2023, 03:14 UTC, China successfully launched the Shenzhou 17 mission, the seventeenth mission of the Shenzhou program and the sixth long-duration flight to the Tiangong space station. The mission will last approximately six months, during which the astronauts will conduct a series of scientific experiments and maintenance activities on the space station.

Liftoff of the Long March-2F rocket carrying the Shenzhou 17 space mission
Liftoff of the Long March-2F rocket carrying the Shenzhou 17 space mission. Credits from Weibo user


Mission Overview

The Shenzhou 17 mission marks a significant milestone for the Chinese space program. This mission will involve a series of scientific and maintenance activities on the Tiangong space station.

The crew, consisting of three astronauts: Tang Hongbo, Tang Shengjie, and Jiang Xinlin, will conduct a series of scientific experiments. These experiments will delve into various fields including space medicine, space biology, and fundamental physics, covering a wide range of topics from dark matter and gravitational waves to cancer growth and pathogenic bacteria. They will also explore how microgravity and cosmic radiation affect phenomena such as bacterial growth and fluid mixing.

In addition to these scientific endeavors, the astronauts have a busy schedule of maintenance activities on the Tiangong space station. These tasks include the assembly of the Wentian laboratory module, the installation of new instruments, and the repair of any damage that may occur.

Mission commander Tang Hongbo is no stranger to space. He was one of the first Chinese astronauts to visit the Chinese space station in June 2021 during the Shenzhou-12 mission. Now, he revisits a space complex that has been transformed into a versatile space laboratory with two additional modules and more sophisticated experimental facilities. Tang has also set a new record for Chinese astronauts by having the shortest interval between two space missions.


Journey to Tiangong

The Shenzhou 17 spacecraft was propelled into space by a Long March-2F rocket, lifting off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. This marks the sixth crewed mission to the Chinese space station since 2021. The new crew is set to relieve the Shenzhou-16 astronauts who have been on board since May. Prior to launch, there was a grand ceremony where the crew was warmly welcomed by government officials and enthusiastic supporters. The astronauts acknowledged the crowd, who reciprocated with waves of Chinese flags and flowers while a band played patriotic tunes that echoed through the air.

The rendezvous of the two crews in space has initiated the third crew rotation in orbit at the Chinese space station. According to the China Human Space Agency, all six astronauts will cohabit and work together for approximately four days to complete planned activities and transition tasks. This collaborative effort between two crews exemplifies China’s capabilities in terms of long-term human spaceflight and scientific research in orbit.

Looking ahead, the Shenzhou 17 astronauts have a busy schedule filled with scientific experiments and maintenance activities on the Tiangong space station. This mission is a testament to China’s growing prowess in long-term human spaceflight and orbital scientific research.


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Federico Airoldi

Federico Airoldi

Coder, developer and content creator. I am dedicated to spreading my love of space exploration and inspiring others to join me in the pursuit of new frontiers. Page owner of Airo_spaceflight.

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