Astronaut Wang Yaping snaps Earth photos and more from Chinese space station

Chinese astronaut Wang Yaping inside of the Tianhe space station.
Chinese astronaut Wang Yaping inside of the Tianhe space station. (Image credit: CNSA)

The first woman aboard China’s new space station has snapped some glorious shots of our homeworld during a six-month mission to space.

Wang Yaping flew to the Tianhe core module in October aboard the Shenzhou 13 spacecraft along with her colleagues Zhai Zhigang and Ye Guangfu. 

An image taken by Wang on Nov. 18 shows Qinghai lake at the bottom of the image pointing east towards the distant East China Sea.

Qinghai lake is described by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre as an inland saline wetland of international importance. 

Wang’s colleagues, commander Zhai Zhigang and Ye Guangfu, took photos of Wang in the Tianhe module as she floated in microgravity and handled apples. 

Related: The latest news about China's space program

Wang Yaping is a veteran of the 2013 Shenzhou 10 mission to the smaller Tiangong 1 space lab. During the two-week mission Wang delivered a live lecture on space physics to a class of children back on Earth, with millions of Chinese school children also watching the live broadcast. 

The contrast between the Tiangong 1 and Tianhe, eight years apart, is apparent in an image shared by official space outreach channel Our Space.

The astronaut, who became the first Chinese woman to embark on an extravehicular activity, or spacewalk, is expected to perform a similar duty at some point during the six-month-long Shenzhou 13 mission. 

Zhai, Wang and Ye began their mission on Oct 15 and carried out their first spacewalk on Nov. 7. The crew’s duties include testing and preparing the Tianhe module to receive new modules next year, as well as performing experiments and conducting science outreach. 

An image of mountainous terrain from orbit as seen by astronaut Wang Yaping on China's Tiangong space station module Tianhe. (Image credit: CNSA)

The mission follows the three-month-long Shenzhou 12 mission which launched in June, sending the first three astronauts to Tianhe. 

Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo also returned a series of stunning images of Earth using smartphones taken with them to space.

Meanwhile back on Earth in the Gobi Desert, Shenzhou 14 and a Long March 2F rocket stand in a state of near-readiness in case of an emergency on Tianhe.

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Andrew Jones
Contributing Writer

Andrew is a freelance space journalist with a focus on reporting on China's rapidly growing space sector. He began writing for 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.