Shenzhou-13 spacecraft

Shenzhou-13 spacecraft


  • China on October 16, 2021 launched Shenzhou-13 spacecraft carrying three astronauts – two men and one woman – on a historic 6-month long mission.
  • The spacecraft was launched aboard a Long March-2F rocket from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwestern province of Gansu.
  • The spacecraft will dock with the Tianhe module, the core module of a future space station where they will live and work for the next six months.
  • The mission will set a new record for the length of time spent in space by Chinese astronauts, as it would be their longest stay in space as the nation looks to complete building its own space station. 


  • China’s second crewed mission will continue the work of the first three-person crew, who had spent 90 days aboard.
  • The members of the first crewed mission had conducted two spacewalks and had deployed a 10m mechanical arm before returning to the Earth in mid-September. 

China’s second crewed mission: Key Highlights 

  • The second crewed mission includes two veterans of space travel- 55-year-old Pilot Zhai Zhigang and 41-year-old Wang Yaping, the only woman on the mission. The third crew member is 41-year-old Ye Guangfu, who is making his first trip to space.
  • The crew’s activities will include at least three spacewalks to install equipment in preparation for expanding the station.
  • They will also assess the living conditions in the module and conduct experiments in space medicine and other fields.
  • The launch of the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft is the fifth mission to the structure, including unmanned launches to deliver supplies.
  • China’s current space programme plans to send multiple crews to the space station in the next two years to make it fully functional. 
  • The station when completed with the addition of two more modules — Mengtian and Wentian — will weigh about 66 tons, which is a fraction of the size of the International Space Station. The ISS had launched its first module in 1998.
  • The two additional Chinese modules will be launched before the end of 2022 during the stay of the Shenzhou-14 crew. The Chinese space station will weigh around 450 tons when completed.

Why is China not a part of ISS?

  • China has been excluded from the International Space Station mainly due to objections from the United States over the Chinese program’s secretive nature and close military ties.
  • This prompted China to launch two experimental modules before starting work on building a permanent space station.
  • As per US law, congressional approval is required for contact between the American and Chinese space programs.
  • China is, however, cooperating with space experts from other countries including Russia, France, Sweden and Italy.
  • Chinese officials have also stated that they look forward to hosting astronauts from other countries aboard its space station once it becomes fully functional.
  • China’s Foreign Ministry renewed its commitment to cooperate with other nations in the peaceful use of space on October 15, 2021. 

China’s space programme

  • China has launched a total of seven crewed missions with 14 astronauts since 2003.
  • China had become the only third nation after the former Soviet Union and the United States to put a person in space on its own.
  • China also landed a rover on the little-explored far side of the Moon in January 2019 and became the first country to bring back lunar rocks to Earth since the 1970s.
  • China also landed its Tianwen-1 space probe on Mars earlier this year, which was carrying aboard the Zhurong rover that has been exploring for evidence of life on the red planet.
  • China also plans to collect soil from an asteroid and bring back additional samples from the lunar surface.
  • China also aims to land people on the moon and possibly build a scientific base there. The timelines for the same are yet to be confirmed.

yojna ias daily current affairs 18 Oct 2021

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