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China launches Shenzhou-17 astronauts for new challenging work in space station
  ·  2023-10-26  ·   Source: Xinhua News Agency

China on October 26 launched the Shenzhou-17 manned spaceship, and the three astronauts aboard will be sent to stay in orbit for about six months on a space station mission.

The spaceship, atop a Long March-2F carrier rocket, blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, according to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA).

The Shenzhou-17 crew, Tang Hongbo, Tang Shengjie and Jiang Xinlin, has the youngest lineup since the construction of China's Tiangong space station started.

Tang Hongbo, born in 1975, is the mission commander and a veteran astronaut once launched into orbit on the Shenzhen-12 mission in June 2021. Tang Shengjie, born in 1989, is a new face and also the youngest astronaut to enter China's space station. Jiang Xinlin, born in 1988, is also a newcomer to space.

They will perform various in-orbit space science and application payload tests and experiments, Lin Xiqiang, deputy director of the CMSA, announced at a press conference on Wednesday.

They will carry out extravehicular activities, install extravehicular payloads and conduct space station maintenance and other tasks, Lin said.

The Shenzhou-17 astronauts will do extravehicular experimental maintenance for the first time, which is a very challenging task, Lin added.

With space debris increasing, their impact on long-term operating spacecraft is inevitable, Lin said. "Through preliminary inspections, we have found that the solar wings of the space station had been hit by tiny space particles several times, causing minor damages."

"Of course, we already took this into consideration in the design stage. At present, all functionality and performance indicators of the space station meet requirements," he added.

The astronauts will also continue to assess the functioning and performance of the space station and test the coordination and compatibility of ground support centers in performing space station operation and management tasks, to further enhance the operating efficiency and fault correction capability of the space station, he said.

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