No Chinese has been in space for long…
According to media reports, three Chinese astronauts arrived at the Tiangong (“Heavenly Palace”) space station on Saturday. The rocket was launched on Saturday shortly after midnight (local time, Friday 6 p.m. CST) from the Jiuquan space station in the northwest of the Gobi Desert (Mongolia).
China’s space agency, Xinhua, reported that the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft has now successfully docked with the space station. It could be China’s longest manned space mission to date: the three-person team will spend six months in the base unit of the space station under construction.
One of the three astronauts is military pilot Wang Yaping. The 41-year-old was the second Chinese woman to travel into space and will be the first woman on the Chinese space station. The expedition is led by 55-year-old Commander Zhai Zhihang, who in 2008 became the first Chinese to complete a spacewalk. The team also includes 41-year-old military pilot Ye Guangfu.
Three tours of the “heavenly palace” are planned in order to install equipment for the expansion of the station, to test living conditions and conduct experiments in space medicine and other fields.
Since 2003, China has launched seven manned missions with a total of 14 astronauts on board, making it only the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to take a person into space alone. Two Chinese astronauts have flown twice into space.
In recent years, the People’s Republic of China has invested billions in its space programs in order to catch up with the space nations of America and Russia. The base unit of the space station was launched into orbit only at the end of April. According to Chinese plans, “Tiangong” should be fully operational next year.
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