Space lab serves as a link between past and future

By Li Jingrong
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, October 14, 2016
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Zhu Zongpeng, chief designer of China's space lab Tiangong 2, believes its successful launch is a link between the past and the future in the history of the country's space technology research and development, according to China Central Television (CCTV).

Zhu Congpeng, chief designer of China's space lab Tiangong-2. [Photo/]

Zhu Zongpeng, chief designer of China's space lab Tiangong 2. [Photo/]

Zhu received an interview before Tiangong 2 was successfully sent into orbit last month, saying it will dock with Shenzhou 11, a manned spacecraft to be launched later this year, so that astronauts can live in the space lab.

The designer responded to the following questions raised by reporters.

What are the major missions of Tiangong 2?

The space lab will provide an orbital base for a series of important missions.

First, it will dock with the manned Shenzhou 11 so that two astronauts will be able to enter and live there for a while.

The second docking will involve Tianzhou 2, China's first space cargo ship to be sent into orbit next year, providing fuel and other supplies.

While in residence, the astronauts will carry out various orbital maintenance technological experiments.

Tiangong 2 is equipped with devices involving 14 projects. The astronauts will also carry out technology applications related to the equipment.

How long can Tiangong 2 serve its purpose in space?

Tiangong 2's role is to "form a connecting link between the past and the future" in China's space lab research and development.

"Previously, Tiangong 1 made a breakthrough in docking technology. This time Tiangong 2 will make a breakthrough in providing fuel and supplies and medium-term residence for personnel," Zhu said.

Their successful deployment will help ensure the progress of the space station mission. Otherwise the overall plan will have to be postponed for years.

Zhu revealed that the intended service term of Tiangong 2 is two years, but the actual term will be longer. Previously, Tiangong 1's designed life was considered to be two years, but expectations now are that it will last for more than four years.

What will be the daily life of the astronauts on the space station?

The Shenzhou 11 will carry two astronauts to the space lab, where they will work and live for 30 days.

The design for Tiangong 2 involves the daily necessities of life, sound and light, cabin decoration, and noise processing. Astronauts can use a number of fitness facilities to exercise, including cycling and running so as to maintain their muscle function.

For communications, astronauts will be equipped with Bluetooth headsets and audio and video devices so that they can communicate with their families and watch TV and music programs beamed from the ground.

Why is there no female astronaut on the Shenzhou 11 mission?

The astronauts selected for the forthcoming Shenzhou 11 mission are both male. "Previously, we have already sent two female astronauts into space, therefore we have achieved the goal of flight experience," Zhu said.

"This time we will only send two astronauts into orbit, taking into account that space on board the vehicle is limited and the life support system is limited. In order to extend the astronauts' time in space, we have to reduce the number involved."

Zhu added that Tiangong 2 will have no other mission after it docks with Tianzhou 1 next year.

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