China to launch Shenzhou-17 crew to space station Thursday
Updated 13:22, 25-Oct-2023

The Shenzhou-17 manned spacecraft will be launched at 11:14 a.m. Thursday (Beijing Time) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) announced at a press conference on Wednesday.

The Shenzhou-17 mission is the 30th flight mission and the 12th manned mission of China's manned space program.

Chinese astronauts, or taikonauts, Tang Hongbo, Tang Shengjie and Jiang Xinlin will carry out the mission to the China Space Station, said the agency.

Check out the Shenzhou-17 crew members

The crew will stay in orbit for about six months, and are scheduled to return to the Dongfeng landing site in the Gobi Desert, north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region next April. During their stay, the crew will rotate with the Shenzhou-16 taikonauts, who are scheduled to return to Earth on October 31.


The Shenzhou-17 crew will conduct a series of tasks in orbit, including extravehicular activities, installing extravehicular payloads, undertaking space station maintenance and other tasks, said the CMSA, adding that the crew will carry out a "very challenging task" – extravehicular experimental maintenance – for the first time.

The crew will also continue to assess the functioning and performance of the space station. They will 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, according to the CMSA.

With the arrival of the Shenzhou-17 manned spacecraft, the space station will expand to a combination of three modules and three spaceships.

The Shenzhou-17 crew will welcome the visiting and docking of the Tianzhou-7 cargo spacecraft and the Shenzhou-18 manned spacecraft during their mission.

A bigger space station

China will launch an extension module at an appropriate time and upgrade the basic configuration of the space station from the current T shape to a cross shape, CMSA officials said at the press conference.

The space station facilities and equipment related to astronauts' in-orbit protection, exercise, diet and hygiene will also be upgraded.

The CMSA also plans to launch a space-survey telescope to stay in the same orbit as the space station for wide-field space observation.

Ready for foreign astronauts


The agency said that China is able and ready to invite foreign astronauts to participate in space station flight missions.

"We extend an invitation to the world and welcome all countries and regions committed to the peaceful use of outer space to cooperate with us to participate in the China Space Station missions," said Lin Xiqiang, deputy director of the CMSA.

Lin also said foreign astronauts could be included in the country's moon-landing mission once the necessary conditions are met.

China plans to realize a manned lunar landing by 2030. "We are solidly advancing our research and development to ensure the goal is achieved as scheduled," said Lin.

Lin reaffirmed that China's manned space engineering is used exclusively for peaceful purposes and the country has neither pursued nor will pursue hegemony in space.

12 to 14 reserve taikonaut candidates to be chosen by end of 2023

China has started the selection process of the fourth batch of reserve taikonauts to join later manned space missions in 2022. 

Twelve to 14 candidates will be chosen, including pilots, engineers and payload experts. The posts of payload experts are open to applicants from the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions for the first time. 

Over 20 candidates have entered the final selection stage, and the plan is to complete the selection process by the end of the year.

(With input from Xinhua)

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