China unveils Shenzhou-17 crew for space station mission
  ·  2023-10-25  ·   Source: Xinhua News Agency


Chinese astronauts Tang Hongbo (C), Tang Shengjie (R) and Jiang Xinlin for the upcoming Shenzhou-17 spaceflight mission meet the press at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on October 25 (XINHUA)

Chinese astronauts Tang Hongbo, Tang Shengjie and Jiang Xinlin will carry out the Shenzhou-17 manned spaceflight mission, with Tang Hongbo as the commander, the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) announced on October 25.

The Shenzhou-17 crew has the youngest lineup since the construction of China's Tiangong space station started. It is also the first spaceflight team to consist of one veteran from China's second batch of astronauts and two space rookies from the third batch of astronauts.

The Shenzhou-17 crewed spaceship will be launched at 11:14 a.m. on October 26 (Beijing Time) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, Lin Xiqiang, deputy director of the CMSA, said at a press conference.

After joining the second batch of Chinese astronauts in 2010, Tang Hongbo flew to space for the first time in the three-month Shenzhou-12 mission in June 2021, the first crewed mission for China's space station construction. He received a third-class medal and the honorary title "heroic astronaut" in November 2021.

As the commander of the Shenzhou-17 mission, Tang Hongbo will be the first astronaut to return to China's space station. He also set a new record for the shortest interval between two spaceflight missions by Chinese astronauts.

To return to the space station, Tang Hongbo completed his physical recovery and mental adjustment as quickly as possible, and underwent learning and training for the new mission at the same time. He was selected as a member of the Shenzhou-17 mission within a year of returning to Earth.

"I'm staying true to my mission to do a spaceflight for my country," he said at the press conference. "It never changes, and I have never slacked off."

The commander said he shared his flying experience without reservation and gave a rule of thumb to his crewmates: to err is human and therefore following the handbook closely is always the golden rule.

Tang Shengjie and Jiang Xinlin are newcomers to space. They joined China's third batch of astronauts in September 2020.

Born in December 1989, Tang Shengjie is currently the youngest Chinese astronaut to carry out a space mission. He served in China's Air Force as a first-class pilot.

Born in a small village in northwest China's Gansu Province, he had to walk a long distance to school along a mountain road every day since he was six years old, and did so for eight years.

After graduating from high school, he entered China's Aviation University of Air Force and became a fighter pilot. In his nearly 13 years of service, he flew six types of aircraft.

From a young age, Tang Shengjie showed considerable hands-on ability. Villagers often asked him to repair their broken electrical appliances. These days, he has a particular talent for the professional skills training needed by astronauts. Every time there was an operational course, Tang Shengjie would feel very excited.

He enjoys photography very much, and is looking forward to watching beautiful planets from a different perspective in space and recording the wonders of the universe.

Like many of his predecessors, Jiang, born in February 1988, is a pilot-turned-astronaut. However, before venturing into the sky, he drove tanks. The control of a tank on the ground is quite similar to the underwater training for astronauts, as they both require upper-body strength, said Jiang.

He won fame at the university by executing a safe emergency brake maneuver when he realized his engine speed indicator was abnormal just as he was beginning to take off. The beginner pilot did not hesitate and throttled down the engine decisively, opened the decelerating umbrella, braked to decelerate, and completed a smooth stop on the runway.

Through years of hard work, Jiang became increasingly fascinated with flying and cultivated his dream of soaring higher. After being selected for the Shenzhou-17 crew, he focused on making the training more efficient and innovating with his team members. For instance, he studied body language and provided the crew with training tips to help improve their teamwork.

At Wednesday's press conference, Jiang said that achieving his space dream is an "incredible honor" and that the country's development in the new era has provided him with the precious opportunity to showcase his skills.

The trio will stay in orbit for about six months, Lin said at the press conference.

According to Lin, the Shenzhou-17 crew will perform various in-orbit space science and application payload tests and experiments. They will carry out extravehicular activities (EVAs), install extravehicular payloads and conduct space station maintenance and other tasks.

The Shenzhou-17 astronauts will perform extravehicular experimental maintenance for the first time, which is a very challenging task as the space station's solar wings have been hit by tiny space particles several times, causing minor damage, Lin added.

"I am confident in, committed to and capable of accomplishing the Shenzhou-17 mission with my two crew mates," said Tang Hongbo at Wednesday's press conference.

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