The three astronauts of Shenzhou XV mission, Zhang Lu (left), Fei Junlong (center), and Deng Qingming, meet with press in Beijing, July 31, 2023. (Photo by Xu Bu/for chinadaily.com.cn)
The three crew members of the Shenzhou XV mission have been awarded medals and titles in recognition of their service and accomplishments during their remarkable six-month journey in space.
In a ceremony held on Thursday, the Communist Party of China Central Committee, the State Council, and the Central Military Commission conferred a Second-grade Space Service Medal on Major General Fei Junlong, while Senior Colonel Deng Qingming and Senior Colonel Zhang Lu received Third-grade Space Service Medals. In addition to these honors, Deng and Zhang were both bestowed with the title of "Heroic Astronaut", a distinction that Fei already held.
Fei, who embarked on his first spaceflight in October 2005, devoted an impressive 17 years to rigorous training in preparation for his return to orbit.
Deng's commitment was even more remarkable, with 25 years dedicated to training and patiently awaiting an opportunity to venture into space.
Zhang's journey spanned 12 years of intense training, culminating in the successful completion of four spacewalks during his maiden space mission, as detailed in an official statement celebrating their remarkable achievements.
The crew, the fourth group to reside within the Tiangong space station, was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China on Nov 29. The following day, they rendezvoused with their Shenzhou XIV counterparts. This historic meeting marked the first instance in which six Chinese individuals were simultaneously in outer space, as well as the inaugural in-orbit handover between two Chinese crews.
During their 186-day orbital sojourn, the Tiangong space station, slated for completion by the end of 2022, underwent significant progress. The Shenzhou XV astronauts conducted four spacewalks and installed numerous pieces of equipment outside the Tiangong, making them the most seasoned Chinese crew in terms of extravehicular activity. They also conducted a multitude of science experiments, technology tests, and collected an extensive amount of valuable data.
The current occupants of the Tiangong station, three astronauts from the Shenzhou XVI mission, arrived on May 30 and are scheduled to remain there until early November.