China to recruit more astronauts as its space station nears completion

Construction of the Tiangong space station is expected to be finished this year

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China is recruiting more astronauts for its human space flight programme, as its space station nears completion.

The China Manned Space Agency announced last week that 12 to 14 reserve astronauts will be selected, including pilots, space flight engineers and payload experts.

The announcement comes as the construction of the Tiangong space station is nearing completion, with the third and final module expected to be launched in October.

“In order to meet the needs of the follow-up missions of the manned space project, the selection of the fourth batch of reserve astronauts in the country has been started recently,” the space agency said.

Astronauts Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Cai Xuhe are already on board the station.

They arrived there in June on a six-month mission to complete the lab’s construction.

The Tiangong station falls under China’s ambitions to become a leading space power, with a thriving sector that also includes planetary, lunar and deep-space exploration.

From 2016 to December 2021, the country completed 207 launch missions, including 183 by the Long March carrier rocket series.

China has already landed a spacecraft on the Moon and Mars.

It also has plans to build the International Lunar Research Station on the Moon's surface, with the help of international partners.

A launch pad for emerging nations

China has said that it is also open to hosting astronauts from other countries on its Tiangong space station.

Zhaoyu Pei, deputy director of lunar exploration and the space engineering centre at the China National Space Agency, said that emerging space nations were showing interest in sending their astronauts to Tiangong.

“Some developing countries are trying to look for opportunities to send their astronauts to the Chinese space station,” he said at the International Astronautical Congress in Paris last month.

The agency also spoke about how other countries could get involved in their lunar research station by sending their own payloads.

The lunar research station was first announced as a joint project with Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, but officials did not mention Russia’s participation during their presentation.

Roscosmos did not participate in the conference. Russian news agency Tass had reported that officials did not “receive invitations and visa assistance”.

China will help the UAE to launch its second Moon rover later this decade.

However, China’s relations with US space agency Nasa are still non-existent.

Nasa is not allowed to co-operate with China because of the Wolf Amendment — a law passed by the US Congress in 2011 that prevents the agency from working with China’s space agency and private companies.

Nasa administrator Bill Nelson had said that co-operation is “up to China” and that there “has to be an openness” from their side “that has not been forthcoming”.

“We have done deconfliction with regard to activities in and around Mars,” Mr Nelson said.

“But we see that there’s not a lot of transparency with regard to the Chinese space programme."

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Updated: October 08, 2022, 7:30 AM