China launches 3 astronauts for 6-month mission to space station

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China sent three astronauts to its space station on Saturday for a record-breaking six-month stay as the country prepares to complete the new orbiting outpost

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

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The two men and a woman are the second crew to board the space station, which launched last April. The first crew stayed for three months.

The new crew includes two space travel veterans. Zhai Zhigang, 55, and Wang Yaping, 41, and Ye Guangfu, 41, who are on their first trip to space.

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

They will conduct three spacewalks to install equipment for the station expansion, assess living conditions in the Tianhe module, and conduct experiments in space medicine and other fields.

THE CHINESE CREW ENTERING A NEW SPACE STATION MODULE FOR A 3 MONTH MISSION

China’s military-led space program plans to send several crews to the station over the next two years to make it fully functional.

When completed with the addition of two more sections – 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 Mankind” And China “Will Continue To Expand The Depth And Extent 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 said they look forward to welcoming astronauts from other countries to the space station once it becomes fully functional.

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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.

China has also extended its work on lunar and Martian exploration, including placing a rover on the far side of the moon, little explored, and returning moon rocks to Earth for the first time since the 1970s.

This year, China also landed its Tianwen-1 space probe on Mars, whose accompanying 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 send people to 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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