Image credit: China National Space Administration (CNSA)/China Central Television (CCTV)/Inside Outer Space screengrab

NOTE: China has announced the Shenzhou-16 crew:

Jing Haipeng, Zhu Yangzhu, and Gui Haichao will stay in orbit on China’s station for five months.

According to the China Global Television Network (CGTN), 56-year-old Jing Haipeng will be the first Chinese astronaut to fly 4 times in space: on the Shenzhou-7 mission in 2008; commanded the Shenzhou-9 mission in 2012 and Shenzhou-11 mission in 2016.

Left to right: Gui Haichao, Jing Haipeng, Zhu Yangzhu. Image credit: CGTN/Inside Outer Space screengrab

36-year-old, Zhu Yangzhu is the flight engineer of the Shenzhou-16 crew. He is a member of China’s People’s Liberation Army Astronaut Corps.

36-year-old Gui Haichao is a professor of Spacecraft Dynamics and Control at Beihang University. He is also the first payload expert to visit the space station. He’s tasked with carrying out scientific experiments during his stay.

Projected liftoff

China’s next trio of astronauts are preparing for a projected May 30 liftoff from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China’s Gansu Province.

The Shenzhou-16 Taikonaut threesome with technicians completed on Sunday the final site-wide rehearsal for the imminent launch of the crewed spaceship, with all systems reportedly in good condition and ready for the mission.

Empty seats awaiting the three Shenzhou-16 crew.
Image credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Systematic joint test

“Through today’s site-wide comprehensive rehearsal, we conducted systematic joint test on the control center and its affiliated tracking and control stations to verify the status of software. The state of equipment under test is stable and the personnel are well-prepared. Everyone is ready for the launch of Shenzhou-16 crewed spaceship,” Dai Xiangjun, the senior engineer at Xi’an Satellite Control Center told China Central Television (CCTV) in an interview.

Image credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The now orbiting Shenzhou-15 crew – Fei Junlong, Deng Qingming, and Zhang Lu – will turn over the operating keys of the Tiangong space station to the Shenzhou-16 crew, then return to Earth ending their six-month stay on the orbital outpost.

Shenzhou-15 embarked on its space voyage on Nov 29, 2021. It was the tenth crewed mission in Chinese spaceflight history.

Image credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Safe and smooth

“To conduct the first manned mission after China’s space station entered a phase of application and development, all departments at our launch center have been carefully prepared for, organized, and implemented our tasks. The staff member in each position has followed the requirements of avoiding mistakes to make the mission a great success, and are trying their best to send the astronauts into space safely and smoothly,” Liu Huibin, the secretary-general of Safety Department at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center told CCTV.

Image credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

According to Huang Weifen, the chief designer of the astronaut system of China’s human spaceflight program, three Chinese astronauts for the Shenzhou-16 mission have arrived at the launch site.

“We have also helped the astronauts to review the manual rendezvous and docking operation, and dress and undress space suits, Huang added. “We want to make sure that the crew [is] fully ready for the mission physically, psychologically and technically.”

According to China Daily, the Shenzhou-16 crew may comprise members of the third generation of the Chinese astronaut corps, civilians recruited from researchers and engineers. There are 17 men and one woman in this generation in three groups: seven spacecraft pilots, another seven as spaceflight engineers and the last four as payload specialists.

To view a CCTV video on Shenzhou-16 mission preparations, go to:

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