China Launches Astronaut Crew for Six-Month Mission to Space Station

China Launches Astronaut Crew for Six-Month Mission to Space Station

China has launched a three-person crew for a six-month mission aboard its space station that is expected to set a new record for time spent in space by Chinese astronauts as the country moves towards completion of structure in orbit.
The Shenzhou-13 spacecraft carrying the three astronauts was launched by a Long March-2F rocket on Saturday at 12:25 am local time (4:25 am GMT Friday).

She is expected to complete docking with the Tianhe module within the next six hours, beginning the mission that will continue the work of the first three-person crew who spent 90 days on board. These crew members performed two spacewalks and deployed a 10-meter (33-foot) mechanical arm before returning to Earth in mid-September.

The new crew includes two space travel veterans – pilot Zhai Zhigang, 55, and Wang Yaping, 41, the only female on the mission – and Ye Guangfu, 41, who is on her first space trip.

The crew were greeted by a military band and supporters chanting Ode to the Fatherland, highlighting the weight of national pride invested in China’s space program which has grown rapidly in recent years.

The crew’s planned activities include up to three spacewalks to install equipment for the station expansion, assess living conditions in the module, and conduct experiments in space medicine and in other areas.

China’s military-led space program plans to send several crews to the station over the next two years to make it fully functional. Shenzhou-13 is the structure’s fifth mission, including unmanned trips to deliver supplies.

When completed with the addition of two more modules – named Mengtian and Wentian – the station will weigh around 66 tonnes, a fraction of the size of the International Space Station, which launched its first module in 1998 and will weigh around 450 tonnes once. finished.

The two additional Chinese modules are expected to be launched before the end of next year during the stay of the crew of the Shenzhou-14, which has yet to be named.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Friday renewed its commitment to cooperate with other countries in the peaceful use of space.

Spokesman Zhao Lijian said sending humans to space is a “common cause of humanity” and China will “continue to expand the depth and breadth of international cooperation and exchange ”In crewed space flights and“ would make positive contributions to the exploration of the mysteries of the universe ”.

China was excluded from the International Space Station in large part due to US objections to the secret nature of the Chinese program and its close military ties, prompting it to launch two experimental modules before starting on the permanent station.

U.S. law requires congressional approval for contacts between U.S. and Chinese space programs, but China is cooperating with space experts from countries like France, Sweden, Russia, and Italy.

Chinese officials have said they look forward to welcoming astronauts from other countries aboard the space station once it becomes fully functional.

China has launched seven crewed missions with a total of 14 astronauts on board since 2003, when it became the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to send a person into space by its own means. Two Chinese astronauts flew twice.

Along with its crewed missions, China has expanded its work on exploring the Moon and Mars, including placing a rover on the unexplored far side of the Moon and bringing lunar rocks back to Earth for the first time. since the 1970s.

This year, China also landed its Tianwen-1 space probe on Mars, whose Zhurong rover explored evidence of life on the Red Planet.

Other Chinese space programs call for collecting soil from an asteroid and bringing back additional lunar samples. China has also expressed its aspiration to land people on the moon and possibly build a scientific base there, although no timeline has been proposed for such projects. A highly secret space plane is also reportedly in development.


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