Taikonaut Chen Dong sets China's record for longest stay in space
Chen Dong has set a new record for the most cumulative days living and working in space by a Chinese taikonaut.
The China Manned Space Agency said on Tuesday that the twice-time space traveler, who is on board the orbiting China's Tiangong space station, has become the first Chinese to stay in orbit for more than 200 days.
Together with two other taikonauts, Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe, Chen was sent into the space station core module Tianhe aboard the Shenzhou-14 spaceship on June 5 for a six-month stay.
The crew has spent more than 170 days in orbit. This is the second time Chen has ventured into space, following his first 33-day Shenzhou-11 mission in Tiangong-2, the space station's predecessor, in 2016 with taikonaut Jing Haipeng.
"Chen is a perfectionist. He never leaves problems unsolved," said Jing. After his first space trip, Chen was conferred with a third-class medal and the honorary title "heroic taikonaut."
Chen was born in 1978 in central China's Henan Province. He was recruited into China's taikonaut team in May 2010.
Appointed as the mission commander, Chen has led the Shenzhou-14 crew to complete multiple tasks over the past five months, including three spacewalks, a series of scientific experiments, a live science lecture, and several in-orbit operations of rendezvous, docking, and transposition. They have been called "the busiest space crew" by Chinese netizens.
During the mission, the trio in orbit oversaw the arrivals of the station's two lab modules, Wentian and Mengtian, and saw off two cargo crafts, Tianzhou-4 and Tianzhou-5. They will also witness the historical moment when the Chinese space station is fully completed by the end of this year.
"Building China's space station is the dream of all Chinese people. We are so lucky and happy to see that the construction of the space home will be completed in our hands," Chen said while the trio met the press ahead of the mission.
"We will make good use of such a platform to carry out more complicated sci-tech experiments, so as to generate more achievements to serve the world and benefit all mankind."
China is ready to send the next manned mission into space as the Shenzhou-15 spaceship and its carrier rocket have been transferred to the launch area on Monday. Chen and his team members will be involved in the first Chinese space station crew handover in orbit when the Shenzhou-15 taikonauts arrive. The manpower in Tiangong will grow to six for a short period before the Shenzhou-14 heads back to Earth.
The Shenzhou-14 crew is scheduled to return to the Dongfeng landing site in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in December.