Shenzhou spacecraft good to go for space tourism: says chief designer Zhou Jianping
Published: Mar 09, 2022 06:22 PM
Shenzhou-13 Photo:Deng Xiaoci/GT

Shenzhou-13 Photo:Deng Xiaoci/GT

China's home-developed Shenzhou manned spacecraft, whose reliability and safety have been fully verified, could be used for space tourism, and flight condition on the spacecraft has been proved to be safe for passengers, Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China's manned space program, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Zhou, who is also a member of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China's top political advisory body, made the remarks on the sidelines of the ongoing two sessions, on Wednesday. 

It offers a clear picture of future space tourism in China. His remarks followed a recent disclosure of the possibility of space travel for the general public -- hopefully in the next decade -- by Yang Liwei, China's first astronaut and the current director of China Manned Space Engineering Office and member of the National Committee of CPPCC.

With the development of space tourism during the 14th Five-Year Plan period, the general public in China may have a chance to visit the country's space station in the next decade, Yang said. 

Zhou pointed out that China's space station is still in the key technology verification stage and once it is completely constructed, work onboard the craft will focus on science exploration, experiments and application, involving in-orbit payload operation, transfer installation and configuration of new payload.

That would mean more professional personnel would be needed, and more types of taikonauts would be sent to the space station, Zhou noted.

Shenzhou-14 and Shenzhou-15 crews would still mainly be tasked to perform construction stage missions, but aerospace engineers and payload experts would be joining the spaceflight mission to space station after that, Zhou disclosed. "It can be expected soon."

After Shenzhou-13's return, Shenzhou-14 and -15 manned missions and two cargo fleets will be rolled out in 2022, as well as the Wentian and Mengtian experimental modules, forming a T-shaped structure with a cabin room of more than 110 cubic meters.

According to the plan, China will complete construction of its Tiangong space station by the end of this year, drawing a satisfactory conclusion to the 30th anniversary of China's manned aerospace history. 

Another highlight of China's space plans is that the Shenzhou-14 and -15 spacecraft will dock at the space station simultaneously for the first time, forming a six-module combination that allows six taikonauts to shift duty in orbit.

Speaking with the Global Times in an exclusive interview on Wednesday, Zhou said that although there are only three beds in the dorm of the Tianhe core module, the other three taikonauts could rest in another group of three beds in the experimental modules.

In September 2021, US private spaceflight firm SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship delivered the world's first all-tourist flight, codenamed Inspiration 4, to orbit [without visiting the International Space Station] and a safe trip back to Earth. None of passengers were professional astronauts.