China set to send 3 astronauts on longest crewed mission yet

BEIJING , China will send three astronauts to its space station to live for six months. This is a significant milestone in a program that has been moving at a rapid pace over recent years.

China set to send 3 astronauts on longest crewed mission yet

BEIJING , China will send three astronauts to its space station to live for six months. This is a significant milestone in a program that has been moving at a rapid pace over recent years.

This will be China's longest-ever crewed space mission. It also sets a record for most Chinese astronauts spending time in space. The Shenzhou-13 spaceship will be launched on Saturday morning on a Long March-2F rocket from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at the Gobi Desert's edge in northwestern China.

In mid-September, the first crew that served a 90-day mission aboard Tianhe's main core module returned to Earth.

Two space veterans are part of the new crew. Pilot Zhai Zhigang, 55, performed China's first spacewalk. Wang Yaping (41), the sole woman on the mission, conducted experiments and taught science classes in real-time, while she was traveling on an earlier Chinese experimental space station. Ye Guangfu (41), will travel into space for the very first time.

Later, the three spoke with reporters through a glass barrier at Jiuquan's base. Zhai said that the mission would take a long time, but that he was certain they could meet the challenge.

"After nearly two years of training together, our crew members know each other well. They also have a tacit understanding." Zhai stated that he believes with the power of our team and their wisdom, we can resolve any difficulties.

Russian cosmonaut Valery Polyakov holds the record for longest space stay at 14 months. He lived on Russia’s Mir space station in 1994, 1995.

This mission will continue the work of the original crew. They conducted two spacewalks and deployed a 10-meter (33 foot) mechanical arm. A video call was also held with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Lin Xiqiang, China Manned Space Agency Deputy Director, stated that the rocket was ready for flight and had been fueled. "All systems involved in the Shenzhou-13 mission underwent a thorough rehearsal. Lin stated that the flight crew was in good health and that pre-launch preparations were in order.

Lin stated that the crew will conduct spacewalks in preparation for expanding the station and verifying the living conditions inside the module. Lin also mentioned that they plan to perform experiments in space medicine and other fields.

The Chinese military, which oversees the space program has not released many details, but it says it will send several crews to the station in the next two-years to make it functional. Shenzhou-13, which includes trips without crews for delivering supplies, will be the fifth mission.

The station, when complete with the additions of two additional modules, Mengtian-Wentian, will weigh approximately 66 tons. This is a fraction of what the International Space Station weighs. It launched its first module in 1998. Lin stated that the two additional modules will be sent to the station before the end next year, during the Shenzhou-14 crew's stay.

The International Space Station excluded China mainly due to U.S. concerns over the Chinese program's secretive nature, military ties, and closeness. It had plans to construct its own space stations by the 1990s. Two experimental modules were built before it began construction on the permanent station.

Contact between American and Chinese space programs requires approval from Congress under U.S. law. However, China is cooperating to space experts from France, Russia, Sweden, Russia, and Italy.

Lin stated that China was increasing such cooperation. Ye Guangfu had undergone training at the European Space Agency in 2016 and European astronauts participated in China's sea survival training training in 2017.

Lin stated that "we welcome astronauts of other countries into our space station and conduct international cooperation." Lin stated that he believes more foreign astronauts will visit the station once it enters its operational and utilization phase.

Ye remarked on his experience with the ESA and said that it was an unforgettable experience that made him realize that astronauts should share the mission of exploring the vast expanse of space and building a home there.

Ye stated, "I look forward (with us) to the day that international colleagues will travel in space together and I welcome them visit China's satellite station."

Since 2003, China has successfully launched seven crewed missions and 14 astronauts since then. It is now the third country to launch a human being into space after the United States. Two Chinese astronauts have flown two times.

China, along with its crewed missions has increased its lunar and Mars exploration. This includes placing a rover onto the far side of the Moon, and returning lunar rocks back to Earth for first time since 1970.

China also launched its Tianwen-1 space probe to Mars this year. The Zhurong rover accompanying it has been searching for signs of life on Mars.

Others call for the collection of soil from an asteroids and the return of additional lunar samples. China also has expressed its desire to land humans on the moon, and perhaps build a scientific base there. However, no timeline has been set. Another highly secretive space plane is being developed.

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