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In the Media

article imageVideo: Shenzhou-9 successfully docks with Tiangong-1

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By Anne Sewell
Jun 18, 2012 in Science
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In China's first manned space flight, the three astronauts on Shenzhou-9 have successfully docked with the Tiangong-1 module and are settling into their new home-from-home.
Digital Journal reported on June 16 on the successful launch of the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft, on its way to docking with the Tiangong-1 module.
On Monday, the space craft had a successful rendezvous and docking with the Tiangong-1 module. The docking was computer controlled. However, there was a manual override in place for the astronauts to use in case of problems.
Tiangong-1, a prototype space lab, was launched unmanned last year as a key step in building a permanent space station for China.
Shentzou 9 docks successfully with Tiangong 1
Video screen capture
Shentzou 9 docks successfully with Tiangong 1
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China's first female astronaut, 33-year-old Liu Yang, with her two male colleagues, 46-year-old Jing Haipeng and 43-year-old Liu Wang, are comfortably settling in.
On how their lives will continue in space, Chen Shanguang, director of the Astronaut Center of China, has said that the life-support and environment control system in both Shenzhou-9 and Tiangong-1, will provide a comfortable environment with the correct temperature, moisture level and air pressure for the astronauts.
People's Daily quoted Gao Feng, who is a researcher of China's Astronaut Research and Training Center, as saying that after the rendezvous and docking, astronauts will work and sleep in the Tiangong-1 module and will eat and use the restroom in the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft.
The Tiangong-1 module provides approximately 15-square-meters of living and working space. The module's sleeping area has two "bedrooms" to give astronauts privacy. Gao stated that while there are three astronauts, there will always be one astronaut on duty, so two "bedrooms" is sufficient. Each astronaut will have approximately seven hours a day to rest.
When wishing to sleep, the astronauts will wrap themselves in a sleeping bag which is attached to the wall of their cabin. They will sleep standing in these sleeping bags. To block the noise from the life-support systems, which runs continuously, they will wear earplugs.
On the subject of meals, the astronauts will have more than 50 kinds of food to choose from, which was all cooked and packaged on earth. This food can be heated before eating and various condiments are available to spice up their meals, including chili sauce and ketchup.
Beverages available for the astronauts include fruit juice and lemon tea. On top of this, each astronaut will drink an estimated 2.2 liters of water per day. This is achieved by placing a one-way drinking valve under their tongue - when a button is depressed, the water flows through the valve into their mouths.
All work and no play make for a dull astronaut - to keep them entertained, Gao says that each astronaut has a camera - they will be able to take photos and share them with their families and also the general public. There is also a private room where astronauts can call home by video telephone.
Astronauts can also listen to music, watch movies or surf the Internet in their spare time on laptops provided in the Tiangong-1 module.
For exercise, there is a stationary bicycle available in the module. A bicycle ergometer, chest developer and neuromuscular electrical stimulation have been prepared on board Tiangong-1 to protect the astronauts against the effects of weightlessness and maintain their cardiac and muscular functions.
The three astronauts will be staying in space for more than 10 days and will perform scientific experiments and will generally test out the life-support system of the module.
There are three major mission goals for the crew, the first being the health monitoring of the astronauts, including nutrition and metabolism, moods, and biorhythm changes in orbit. They will further make research on the physiological effects mechanism of weightlessness and the countermeasures, which include the impact study on the functions of astronaut’s cardiovascular, vestibule and brain in the orbiting flight. They will also study bone loss in space and conduct research in environmental medicine.
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