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Astronauts get physical and mental workouts on Chinese space station (video)

Shenzhou 13 astronaut Wang Yaping gets an orbital workout with the treadmill aboard China's Tianhe core module.
Shenzhou 13 astronaut Wang Yaping gets an orbital workout with the treadmill aboard China's Tianhe core module. (Image credit: CCTV+)

China's Shenzhou 13 astronauts are playing a major role in testing and constructing the country's first long-term space station, but they're also maintaining a decent work-life balance.

New video updates released by the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) show that the three astronauts are taking the time to keep up their fitness while also working to lessen the effects of long-duration microgravity exposure on the body.

Wang Yaping, China's second woman in orbit and the first to travel to the new space station, is seen using the station's treadmill to get a workout, strapping herself in before getting up and running. 

Related: The latest news about China's space program

The CMSA has recently begun providing more regular updates from Tianhe, the station's core module, after releasing little information about the Shenzhou 13 mission in the two weeks after its launch and providing patchy coverage of the preceding Shenzhou 12 mission.

The videos have been well received. More than 3 million people had viewed the video of Wang's workout a little over five hours after it was posted to CMSA's Sina Weibo social media account. 

The exercise device appears to be designed to absorb the impacts of astronauts' foot strikes so that the vibrations don't affect the spacecraft or its equipment.

Exercise is vital to countering some of the muscle and bone loss experienced by astronauts staying in microgravity, and the Shenzhou 13 crew are just one month into their six-month-long mission aboard Tianhe. 

The station's fitness equipment includes a spin bike and resistance bands along with the treadmill. Mission commander Zhai Zhigang and his colleagues have also been practicing the Chinese martial art of tai chi.

Fellow Shenzhou 13 crewmember Ye Guangfu, meanwhile, was spotted playing a sliding block puzzle named Huarong Pass in another popular social media post.

It has not been all fun and games for the astronauts, however. Zhai and Wang recently embarked on the first of two or three spacewalks to prepare the Tianhe module for future work and the arrival of new modules next year.

Shenzhou 13 launched on Oct. 15 Eastern time, and Zhai, Wang and Ye are expected to stay aboard Tianhe until March 2022.

China's longest human spaceflight mission to date was the Shenzhou 12 mission earlier this year, which saw Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo inhabit Tianhe for three months.

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Andrew Jones

Andrew is a freelance space journalist with a focus on reporting on China's rapidly growing space sector. He began writing for Space.com in 2019 and writes for SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, New Scientist and others. Andrew first caught the space bug when, as a youngster, he saw Voyager images of other worlds in our solar system for the first time. Away from space, Andrew enjoys trail running in the forests of Finland. You can follow him on Twitter @AJ_FI.