Science

A stuffed cow guards China’s space station ahead of the Shenzhou 13 crew’s arrival next month

There are currently no astronauts aboard China’s new space station, but a stowaway on a recent cargo mission now inhabits the orbital outpost.

Cameras aboard the Tianzhou 3 cargo spacecraft show a stuffed cow hidden among supplies and equipment. Tianzhou 3 docked with the Tianhe module, the core module of China’s Tiangong space station, on September 20 in preparation for the upcoming Shenzhou 13 crewed mission, which is currently scheduled to launch on October 16.

The cow was likely chosen because this year is the Year of the Ox in the 12-year sequence of animals in the Chinese zodiac.

Related: The Latest News on China’s Space Program

A stuffed cow tethered inside a Chinese space cargo ship. (Image credit: CCTV)

The stuffed animal is also attached, rather than being a “zero-gravity indicator,” as seen on some American missions, that it would begin to float upon experiencing weightlessness or microgravity.

And he’s not the first to visit China’s space station. Shenzhou 12 astronaut Liu Boming brought a small stuffed cow to Tianhe and introduced it during a video tour. Liu took the cow to Earth with him on September 17.

By the time the next crewed mission, Shenzhou 14, launches around May 2022, it will be the Year of the Tiger, so expect a striped plush toy to be present on the mission.

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