Chinese astronauts on six-month mission enter space station after the successful launch
Three Chinese astronauts, including a woman, onboard the Shenzhou-13, have entered the space station core module Tianhe on Saturday, the country’s space agency said, hours after the spaceship was successfully launched for a record six-month mission.
The three astronauts — ZhaiZhigang, Wang Yaping, and Ye Guangfu — successfully docked with the radial port of the underconstruction space station core module Tianhe. They will stay in the space station for six months to complete its construction — the longest manned mission in China’s history.
Wang is the first Chinese woman astronaut to visit China’s space station. The spaceship, launched on early Saturday morning, completed orbital status and conducted a fast-automated rendezvous and docking with Tianhe at 6:56 am (Beijing Time), forming a complex together with the cargo crafts Tianzhou-2 and Tianzhou-3.
The whole process took approximately 6.5 hours, the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) said. The spaceship, atop a Long March-2F carrier rocket, was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China’s Gobi Desert.
This is the second manned mission for China’s space station, which is under construction. Earlier three other astronauts NieHaisheng, Liu Boming, and Tang Hongbo returned to earth on September 17 after a successful three-month stay in the space station module during which they carried out several tasks to build it.
Billed as the most prestigious and strategically important space project for China after the country’s recent Mars and previous Moon missions, the low orbit space station would be the country’s eye from the sky, providing round a clock bird’s-eye view on the rest of the world. The space station is expected to be ready by next year.
Once ready, China will be the only country to own a space station while the aging International Space Station (ISS) is now a collaborative project of several countries. It is expected to be a competitor to the ISS and perhaps may become a sole space station to remain in orbit once the ISS retires.
The ISS is divided into two sections — the Russian Orbital Segment (ROS), which is operated by Russia, and the United States Orbital Segment (USOS), which is run by the US as well as many other nations, including Japan and Canada.