China launches 3 astronauts on 6-month space station mission

BEIJING (AP) – China on Saturday launched a three-person crew for a six-month mission aboard its space station that aims to set a new record for the time Chinese astronauts spend in space as the country nears completion

BEIJING (AP) – China on Saturday launched a three-person crew aboard its space station for a six-month mission aimed at setting a new record for the time Chinese astronauts spend in space as the country progresses to the completion of the orbiting structure.

The Shenzhou-13 spacecraft carrying the three astronauts was launched by a Long March-2F rocket on Saturday (4225 GMT Friday) at 12:25 p.m.

It is expected that docking with the Tianhe module will be completed within the next six hours and the mission will begin, which will continue the work of the first three-person crew to have been on board for 90 days. These crew members performed two space walks and deployed a 10-meter mechanical arm before returning to Earth in mid-September.

The new crew includes two aerospace veterans. Pilot Zhai Zhigang, 55, and Wang Yaping, 41, the only woman on the mission, and Ye Guangfu, 41, who is making his first voyage into space.

The crew was bid farewell by a military band and supporters who sang “Ode to the Motherland”.

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

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

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

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

China’s foreign ministry on Friday renewed its commitment to collaborate with other nations in the peaceful uses of space.

Spokesman Zhao Lijian said sending humans into space is a “common cause of humanity,” and China will “continue to expand the depth and breadth of international cooperation and exchanges” in human spaceflight and make positive contributions to the exploration of the mysteries to the world ”. Universe.”

China was excluded from the International Space Station mainly because of US objections to the secret nature of the Chinese program and close military ties.

US law requires Congress approval for contact between the American and Chinese space programs, but China is cooperating with space experts from countries like France, Sweden, Russia, and Italy. Chinese officials said they look forward to hosting astronauts from other countries aboard the space station once it is fully operational.

China has launched seven manned missions with a total of 14 astronauts on board since 2003, when it was only the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to take a person into space on its own. Two Chinese astronauts have flown twice.

Along with its manned missions, China has expanded its lunar and Martian exploration work, including placing a rover on the under-explored back of the moon and returning lunar rocks to Earth for the first time since the 1970s.

China also landed its Tianwen-1 spacecraft on Mars earlier this year, with its companion Zhurong rover looking for evidence of life on the red planet.

Other Chinese space programs are calling for Earth to be collected from an asteroid and for additional lunar samples to be brought back. China has also expressed a desire to land humans on the moon and possibly establish a scientific base there, although no timetable has been proposed for such projects. A very secret space plane is also reportedly under development.

The Associated Press

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