China’s Shenzhou 14 astronauts have been busy testing a new space station module, conducting spacewalks and carrying out experiments — but they’ve also found time to take some spectacular photos.
Images taken by Cmdr. Chen Dong show one of the station’s flexible solar arrays against a backdrop of nighttime cities shining from Earth below, and another photo captures the airglow above our planet that results when sunlight interacts with atoms and molecules in Earth’s atmosphere.
Liu Yang, whose previous mission to space back in 2012 made her China’s first woman in orbit, also snapped some pictures, including one of a full moon above Earth. Photos taken by Cai Xuzhe on his first trip to space include an image of Hainan island, just off the Chinese mainland, from where the Tiangong modules launched, and a tomato plant sprouting aboard the station.
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Shenzhou 14 is the third crewed mission to Tiangong. During the first, Shenzhou 12, astronauts also returned stunning images.
The Shenzhou 14 crew is scheduled to receive a new visitor later this month, when the third and final module for Tiangong is launched. The Mengtian module will complete the planned T-shaped orbital outpost.
The crewmembers are expected to stay in orbit until sometime in December, when they will welcome the incoming Shenzhou 15 mission astronauts and carry out China’s first-ever crew handover.