China Releases First Images of Complete China Tiangong Space Station (Photos)

China’s Shenzhou 16 crew recently captured fascinating images of the China Tiangong Space Station as they departed from the orbiting laboratory and headed toward Earth. These images were taken using high-definition cameras. This is the first time the full structure images of Tiangong Space Station have been taken since it arrived in space.

Before the Shenzhou 16 astronauts left the space station, they handed over to the Shenzhou 17 crew who arrived at the orbiting laboratory on Oct. 26. The three Shenzhou 16 taikonauts including commander Jing Haipeng, Zhu Yangzhu, and Gui Haichao left the space station on Oct. 30 aboard the Shenzhou 16 return capture. They landed on Earth that same day.

As the astronauts were returning to Earth, they turned their high-definition cameras toward Tiangong and captured breathtaking images of the space station.

What You Should Know About China Tiangong Space Station

China’s Tiangong space station as captured by the crew of Shenzhou 16 upon leaving the station. (Image credit: CMSE)

China Tiangong space station is orbiting Earth at about 217 and 280 miles (340 to 450 kilometers) over our home planet. The first part of the orbiting laboratory named Tianhe reached the low-Earth orbit in 2021. Shenzhou 12 taikonauts are the first crew that arrived at this core model on June 16, 2021.

The crew spent 90 days aboard the space station before returning to Earth. The second unit of the China Tiangong Space Station named Wentian arrived in orbit in 2022, while the third unit named Mengtian reached space in 2023. Upon completion, the space station began about 180-foot (55-meter) long.

It weighs about 77 tons and is about 20% as massive as the International Space Station. Since its completion, Tiangong has hosted many taikonauts who visit the space station batch by batch.

The crew often arrives in batches of three taikonauts who perform several important science experiments. China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) plans to continue sending taikonauts to the orbiting laboratory for decades. The Shenzhou 16 crew that captured these breathtaking images was the fifth team to live on the orbiting laboratory.

During their stay at the station, they conducted numerous scientific experiments such as growing vegetables and conducting spacewalks, among others. The crew also conducted live lectures from space. During these lectures, they demonstrated how to light a match in the microgravity of space.

Next Plans Of CMSA

China’s Tiangong space station was captured by the crew of Shenzhou 16 upon leaving the space station. (Image credit: CMSE)

The recent images captured by Shenzhou 16 show the current state of the orbiting laboratory. However, CMSA may likely do some modifications in the future. On Oct. 4, during the 47th International Astronautical Congress, CMSA revealed that it plans to expand the Tiangong Space Station with an extra three modules.

If these modifications were put in place, the space station would have about six units. CMSA also revealed its intention to send a Hubble-class space telescope named “Xuntian” into orbit soon. The telescope will serve as a companion to the Tiangong and be powerful enough to meet up it refueling, repairs, and upgrades.

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