Astronauts ring in Chinese New Year on Tiangong space station

A Chinese astronaut crew decked their space station in red to celebrate the new year.

The Shenzhou 15 crew carried lucky red signs and strung red banners around the Tiangong space station to welcome the Chinese New Year on Sunday (Jan. 22), which will be the Year of the Rabbit.

“As we welcome the upcoming spring festival in China’s space station, we wish you all peace and joy [and] getting what you wish for,” commander Fei Junlong said in the video released by the China National Space Administration. (Translation from Chinese provided by state media provider CCTV.)

Flanking Junlong were Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu; the trio are serving six months aboard the space station, during which they plan to conduct three or four spacewalks and more than 100 experiments.

Related: China’s Shenzhou 15 crew has busy 6 months ahead aboard Tiangong space station

The astronauts, also called taikonauts, arrived at the the newly completed space station on Nov. 29 following their launch atop a Long March 2F rocket. They met up with the Shenzhou 14 crew in orbit, making a historic moment when China had six astronauts in orbit for the first time.

Tiangong now hosts three space modules, which is expected to greatly increase the Shenzhou 15 crew’s responsibilities compared to its predecessors. Chinese state media has said there are 24 science cabinets in the recently arrived Wentian and Mengtian modules alone.

The tasks for the spacewalks have not been disclosed. Huang Weifen, China’s chief astronaut trainer, told state media provider CCTV (opens in new tab) in December that because extravehicular work will have to be done in parallel by two crew members outside the spacecraft at two different locations, spacewalks will pose “greater challenges” than before.

China operates its space program independently from the International Space Station consortium, in large part because NASA cannot engage bilaterally with China due to legislation passed by Congress in 2011. 

Earlier today (Jan. 23) in a public, livestreamed address, European Space Agency director-general Josef Aschbacher said his agency has neither the “the budgetary nor the political … greenlight or intention” to fly European astronauts to Tiangong, following previous musing about such opportunities, due to ISS commitments.

Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of “Why Am I Taller (opens in new tab)?” (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).

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