Space exploration is booming for both China and Europe in 2022 | Popgen Tech



It’s been a busy year for space exploration. China completed the main structure of its orbiting space station… the ISS got its first female European commander… and NASA launched the first flights in its long mission to put humans back on the moon.

China’s Shenzhou-14 mission, launched in June, may well go down as one of the busiest in the history of China’s manned space program. The team of taikonauts – led by commander Cheng Dong, along with operator Liu Yang and system operator Cai Xuzhe – performed three important spacewalks to attach the Wentian laboratory module to China’s Tiangong space station.


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The laboratory, which completes Tiangong’s main structure, will allow taikonauts as well as international partners to conduct long-duration experiments in zero gravity and the vacuum of space.

Then in November there was a historic handover when the Shenzou-14 crew welcomed their replacement crew, meaning the space station supported six people for the first time.

The Shenzhou-14 team arrived home at the beginning of December. Speaking to CGTN, the chief designer of China’s manned space program astronaut system, Huang Weifen, was full of praise for her team.

“The three taikonauts performed very well during their mission and showed their extraordinary mental and physical qualities. I think these well-trained taikonauts set a good example. After entering the space station in orbit, they performed very well and quickly adapted to the environment and complete their completion. work brilliantly.”

Astronaut Liu Yang waves as she exits a reentry capsule of the Shenzhou-14 spacecraft.  /Reuters

Astronaut Liu Yang waves as she exits a reentry capsule of the Shenzhou-14 spacecraft. /Reuters

Astronaut Liu Yang waves as she exits a reentry capsule of the Shenzhou-14 spacecraft. /Reuters

European astronauts also broke boundaries in 2022, with Italian Samantha Cristoforetti becoming the first European woman to command the International Space Station – and the first ESA astronaut to undertake a spacewalk wearing the latest version of the Russian Orlan spacesuit.

She attracted a lot of attention in China when she posted lines by the 4th century Chinese poet Wang Xizhi: “Looking up, I see the vastness of the cosmos; bending my head, I look at the multitude of the world. The gaze flies, the heart expands, the joy of the senses can reach its peak, and this is indeed true happiness.”

Cristoforetti was praised for her Chinese language skills. The Italian speaks half a dozen languages ​​and previously participated in joint training between ESA and the China Manned Space Agency.


CGTN caught up with her when she landed back in Germany, and the astronaut explained why she chose this piece.

“I wish I could take credit for having a good friend – an Italian who has lived in China for 30 years, a sinologist who has a lot of knowledge of Chinese literature. He suggested it to me, and it went to ‘ sounded like a good extract – so unfortunately I can’t take credit for choosing it, just for choosing a smart friend.”

NASA was also busy in 2022. After some delays, it successfully launched the Orion capsule – the first major step in the Artemis program to return humans to the moon. It’s seen as a step toward an eventual manned mission to Mars — and according to Steve Platts, the chief scientist for NASA’s Human Research Program, some of the experiments on Artemis-1 certainly sounded like they were lifted straight from science fiction .

“When we look at Mars, we know that we’re probably going to have to grow some crops, like they did in the movies and on TV, and how we do on the space station,” he said. “So we want to see how radiation will affect the seeds that we can send to Mars.”

The closest this reporter will get to the stars is the planetarium in Berlin – unless one of the space agencies feels like making a really big call…

But back in reality, 2023 is also set for some tantalizing space missions. From the US, Space X will provide the first commercial spacewalk in March. At the same time, China hopes to have its Xuntian Space Telescope operational by the end of next year.


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