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Astronauts set to settle into home away from home

(China Daily)

08:34, June 19, 2012

As Shenzhou IX successfully entered orbit on Saturday evening, China's first female astronaut and two male colleagues started their space journey. What is their life like in space?

Chen Shanguang, director of the Astronaut Center of China, said that the environment-control and life-support system in Shenzhou IX and the Tiangong-1 module, a prototype space lab launched last year in a key step toward building a permanent space station, will provide a comfortable environment with a proper temperature, moisture level and air pressure for their astronauts.

After the space rendezvous and docking on Monday afternoon, the astronauts will work and sleep in the Tiangong-1 module and eat and use the restroom in the Shenzhou IX spacecraft, People's Daily quoted Gao Feng, a researcher of the China's Astronaut Research and Training Center, as saying on Sunday.

The module will provide about a 15-square-meter area for living and working.


The sleeping area is in Tiangong-1 and has two "bedrooms" to keep the astronaut's privacy. Though there are three astronauts, there is always one on duty, so two "bedrooms" are enough.

To sleep, the astronauts wrap themselves in a sleeping bag attached to the wall in their cabin. They have earplugs to block the noise from the life-support systems, which run continuously, as well as sounds caused by the thermal expansion and contraction of the module itself.

The astronauts will have about seven hours a day for rest.

The astronauts will sleep standing in their sleeping bags. Both cabins have telephones so they can contact each other.

They can adjust the amount of light in the cabins as they wish.

Meals and beverages

The astronauts have more than 50 kinds of food to choose from, all cooked and packaged on Earth.

They will eat three meals a day.

Chen said the food could be heated before eating, and various condiments such as chili sauce and ketchup are available.

The beverages include lemon tea and fruit juice.

Each astronaut will drink an estimated 2.2 liters of water a day by placing a one-way drinking valve under their tongue. When they press a button, water flows through the valve into their mouths.

Each astronaut has a personal drinking valve.


Recreation on long space flights is important to the astronauts' mental health. Gao said each astronaut has a camera to take photos that can be shared with families and the public.

There are laptops in the Tiangong-1 and astronauts can see movies, listen to music or surf online in their spare time.

There is a private room in the module where astronauts can make calls home by video telephone.

The astronauts can use a stationary bicycle in the Tiangong-1 to exercise.


The 33-year-old female astronaut Liu Yang, 45-year-old Jing Haipeng and 43-year-old Liu Wang are scheduled to dock the spacecraft with Tiangong-1.

The crew will stay in space for more than 10 days, during which time they will perform scientific experiments and the country's first manual space docking.


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