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.
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