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China began construction of the space station with the launch of Tianhe – the first and largest of the station’s three modules – in late April 2021. A total of 11 missions were part of the intensive construction phase of the space station, scheduled from April 29, 2021 to in the course of 2022, three of which will concern modules, four, cargo vessels, and four, manned vessels.

The Shenzhou-12 mission in June 2021 would be followed by the Tianzhou-3 robotic cargo flight in September and the Shenzhou-13 crew mission in October, making 2021 the first year with multiple Chinese crewed launches. For 2022, the Chinese space station flight manifest features the Tianzhou-4 and Shenzhou-14 flights in the spring, the Tianzhou-5 and Shenzhou-15 flights in the fall, and the Wentian and Mengtian scientific modules set for summer launches.

The crew of Shenzhou-12 and the next three manned space flights - Shenzhou-13, 14 and 15 - were selected from the members of the first and second group of taikonauts. China selected its first group of 14 cosmonauts in the mid-1990s. Since 2003, the country has sent six into space, including Zhai Zhigang, the first Chinese to perform a spacewalk in September 2008. Three years later, the China selected its second group, made up of five men and two women: it was the first time that women had been part of a Chinese space mission. Although they are not participating in the Shenzhou-12 mission, they will be present afterwards.

The Shenzhou-14 and 15 missions are scheduled to take place in 2022, with each crew remaining in space for six months. The astronauts will perform multiple tasks outside the cabin, including repairs and maintenance on the spacecraft as well as construction missions, The outings will become routine and the length of these trips will become routine. activities will be considerably extended.

Plans are afoot to send Pakistan's first astronaut to space with China's help in 2022, the country's Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry announced on 27 October 2018, saying the proposal got a nod from the federal Cabinet at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan ahead of his maiden visit to China. An agreement between Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) and a Chinese company has already been signed for the ambitious mission, Lahore-based The News daily cited Chaudhry as telling a press conference after Thursday's Cabinet meeting. There's no official confirmation of the project from Chinese officials yet.

In December 2017, Pakistan's Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman had also said that Islamabad will collaborate with China to send astronauts to space, Karachi-based ARY News reported. With its first successful manned spaceflight in 2003 on Shenzhou-5, China became only the third country after Russia and the US to have an independently developed manned space mission. It has so far sent six manned missions to space through the Shenzhou program. The last such flight, Shenzhou-11, was launched in October 2017 and carried two astronauts who spent 33 days at the Tiangong-1 space station, making it China's longest-ever space mission, according to Xinhua.

While Shenzhou-12 and Shenzhou-13 launches are scheduled for 2020 and 2021, it is probably the Shenzhou-14 mission - tentatively planned for 2022 - which Pakistan is targeting for its historic step of putting a man in space.

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Page last modified: 23-06-2021 14:58:48 ZULU