- "Look to the west... You see that dot in the distance? That is the Chinese Station. You’re going to take the Soyuz and cruise over there. The Chinese lifeboat is a Shenzhou."
- ―Matt Kowalski reveals the Shenhzou to Ryan Stone.
It is the capsule that Dr. Ryan Stone uses to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere.
Role in GravityEdit
Dr. Ryan Stone is first told about the Shenzhou by Matt Kowalski, who tells her that the Soyuz Capsule's parachute has been deployed, rendering it useless for a re-entry, however it is perfect for a "Sunday drive" to the Tiangong station, roughly 100 miles away, which has been abandoned by its crew in one of the two Shenzhou Capsules, leaving one behind. Later on in the film, having attempted suicide because she thought she was stranded in the Soyuz to slowly succumb to hypercapnia, Stone reactivates the air flow to the cabin of the Soyuz Capsule and as the oxygen levels rise she begins to recover from hypoxia, remembering what her subconscious was trying to tell her by manifesting Matt Kowalski; that the re-entry rockets run on a separate fuel tank and she can still make it to the Tiangong station, which has the remaining Shenzhou. With renewed determination, she fires the thrusters and shoots off towards the Chinese station on momentum.
As the Soyuz capsule flies forward, Ryan sees that the station has been greatly damaged by the debris and is sinking into the atmosphere. Stone also notices that she will miss the station by several meters. Retrieving the fire extinguisher she used to fight the fire on the ISS, she blasts open the airlock with explosive decompression and is thrown out into space. Using the fire extinguisher to propel herself towards the Chinese space station, she slams into it and manages to hang on as the Tiangong drops faster through the Earth's atmosphere and begins a rapid descent. The debris field reappears in the distance, racing towards her as she begins her climb to the airlock while the station begins to break apart.
The debris strike slams into the Chinese space station, shredding it and rapidly forcing the station out of its orbit towards a re-entry. Ryan climbs into the Chinese Shenzhou capsule and struggles to make sense of the symbols – pressing random buttons to see if she can initialize the re-entry protocol. Luckily because the Shenzhou is pretty much the Chinese Soyuz, she is able to piece together what she needs to allow the Shenzhou to break apart from the surrounding Tiangong station as what's left of it hurtles through the Earth's upper atmosphere at over 25,000 feet per second. The capsule explodes forward, taking the lead of the debris field as the station falls apart with each passing second – erupting into lines of fire across the sky. Ryan manages to press a button that seems familliar from the Soyuz and it undocks the Shenzhou from its other components. Ryan closes her eyes and puts on the helmet to her spacesuit The Tiangong continues breaking apart when the gravity takes hold and drags it down to Earth. Luckily the parachute is activated, slowing the capsule and allowing it to land gently in a lake of water.
The capsule hits the water and floats for a moment – radio cracking to life as Houston is finally able to make contact, promising a rescue. However an electrical fire breaks out, forcing Stone to escape the Shenzhou immediately. She ejects the hatch and the Shenzhou rapidly fills with water, and struggles to breathe. For a moment it seems like she will drown and the weight of the capsule and parachute quickly drag it to the bottom.
- There is an actual Shenzhou craft.
- Shenzhou has been translated to "heavenly craft" and "divine vessel" in English. This is referenced when Kowalski refers to it as the "Chinese lifeboat" and in a way it is heavenly because it returns Stone to mother Earth.
- According to the script, the recording in the Shenzhou reads: 龉 侣 鲻 鼢 汉, 侣蔓贩 浇! 汉 鼢侣 鲻龉! 龉, 侣蔓贩 浇!
- The text in the Shenzhou is Mandarin Chinese according to the script.