Shenzhou-12 Astronauts Become First Chinese To Enter A Space Station

Three Chinese astronauts entered their country’s space station during the Shenzhou-12 mission, ending the history of no Chinese in space stations.

The trio, Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo, entered the space station’s core module “Tianhe” from the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft launched on Thursday, according to the China Manned Space Engineering Office.

This came more than 20 years after the International Space Station (ISS) was launched, which does not allow Chinese astronauts to be onboard because of a U.S. law banning the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) from working with their Chinese counterparts, CGTN reported on June 19.

As the ISS is retiring and Russia has decided to pull from the project, China has stood out to build a new space station and is inviting global cooperation.

The China space station, orbiting the Earth at a height of about 400 kilometres, is still under construction, as eight more missions including three manned ones are still being prepared.

Currently the station is composed of a core module named Tianhe, a supply ship Tianzhou-2 and the Shenzhou-12, which docked with the space station less than three hours before the entering.

Astronaut, cosmonaut or taikonaut?

Some Chinese are so proud of the latest achievements that they revived the topic of how to name people in space.

The naming problem emerged in the Cold War, when Soviet Union named their space heroes “cosmonauts” while the U.S. called theirs “astronaut.”

Later, the word “taikonaut” was coined using the Mandarin equivalent of the word space – taikong – and the common suffix “-naut”.

Oxford and Longman dictionaries listed the word taikonaut and said it means a Chinese astronaut.

The next steps

Now the three astronauts are unpacking the supplies on Tianzhou-2, setting up Wi-Fi connections and other equipment on the space station.

They will live in the station for at least three months and conduct various technology test and science experiments, during which spacewalks involving robot arms will also be performed.

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Deirdre Tynan

Deirdre Tynan is an award-winning journalist who enjoys bringing the best in news reporting to Spain’s largest English-language newspaper, Euro Weekly News. She has previously worked at The Mirror, Ireland on Sunday and for news agencies, media outlets and international organisations in America, Europe and Asia. A huge fan of British politics and newspapers, Deirdre is equally fascinated by the political scene in Madrid and Sevilla. She moved to Spain in 2018 and is based in Jaen.