China is sending its youngest fighter pilots into space

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China is sending its youngest fighter pilots into space

As it prepares for its manned mission to the Moon by 2030, the Asian giant continues its plans to expand the Tiangong station, led by the three tyconauts of the Shenzhou-17 mission that took off this Thursday.

Before going into space, Jiang Xinlin, The 35-year-old was a tank driver and fighter pilot in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. He logged more than 1,000 flight hours during his 10-year career in the Air Force, flying fighters over disputed islands in the South Seas.

Jiang added to his resume this Thursday with his first space flight. He did so as a crew member of the Shenzo-17 mission. The target is Tiangong Station, orbiting at a distance of about 380 kilometers from Earth. Another young ex-Chinese military pilot was also on board. Tang Shengji (33 years). Like his colleague Jiang, this was his first time in space.

Both pilots LThey have been preparing for three years at the Astronaut Camp in Beijing. There, they train in a 10-meter-deep water tank that simulates weightlessness in space, wearing costumes weighing more than 120 kg.

The mission was headed by another senior pilot, commander Tang Hongpo (age 48), holds the record for the shortest interval between space missions by the Chinese Taikonaut (as astronauts are called): two in two years.

to the Moon in 2030

The Asian superpower’s ambitious space program, which plans to send a man to the moon by 2030, continues to gain momentum after starting a six-month mission in Tiangong with the youngest crew of astronauts in its history.

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A Long March 2F rocket carrying a ship carrying three fighter pilots was successfully launched from the Jiuquan satellite launch site in the Gobi Desert, northwest of the country. It will be China’s 12th manned space mission.

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Thirty-year-old Jiang and Tang join the third group of Chinese pilots who have been converted into astronauts in 2020. Gui Haichao, an aerospace engineer and researcher at Beihang University in Beijing, broke a strict military profile — an Air Force recruit — last May when he became the first Chinese citizen to join a mission beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Gui and his two other mission mates, who formed the crew of Shenzhou-16, the predecessor of the current mission, will return to Earth on October 31.

For the selection process for the fourth batch of astronauts, the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) is looking for doctoral candidates in fields ranging from biology, physics and chemistry to biomedical engineering and astronomy. And, for the first time, this group Open to training foreign astronauts as long as Mandarin is mastered, Working language in Tiangong.

Construction of the Chinese station began after the United States withdrew Beijing from the International Space Station in 2011, largely due to concerns about the Chinese space program’s ties to the military. Completed late last year and with an operational useful life of about 15 years, Tiangong now has three main modules: two research labs, Wentian and Meingtian, launched in 2022, and the Tianhe module, which houses the crew, launched into orbit. In 2021.

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This week, CMSA Deputy Director Lin Qiqiang revealed that The next step is to expand the railway station, which is now T-shaped, but could have an expanded module to carry out more scientific research, and another module to improve the astronauts’ living facilities, including a sort of “gym” for the team to exercise. In addition, according to the plan, there is an idea to soon launch the Xuntian Space Telescope, which will orbit together with the space station.

Lin also highlighted that Shenzhou-17’s young crew will “continue to carry out experiments to repair solar panels damaged by small pieces of space debris that hit the station and carry out spaceflight.”

The deputy director reiterated Beijing’s goal of sending a man to the moon by 2030 and building a base on the lunar surface. “The goal of taking the Chinese to the moon will be achieved as planned,” he said. The world’s second-largest economy is spending billions accelerating its plans to try to catch up with space powers like the United States and Russia.

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