China unveils lineup for next space mission, including first female astronaut

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China on Saturday will send three astronauts, including the first female crew member, to its space station for six months. This will be China’s longest manned space mission to date and the crew will set the record for the most time spent in space by Chinese astronauts.

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China’s manned space program announced that the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft will be launched on a Long March-2F rocket early Saturday morning from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China.

It is the second of China’s four planned crewed missions to the space station, scheduled to be completed by the end of next year.


“Extensive rehearsals have been carried out of all systems operating the Shenzhou-13 mission. The flight crew is in good shape and our pre-launch preparations are in order,” the space agency’s deputy director Lin Ziqiang told media personnel on Thursday. .

The mission will be commanded by 55-year-old Zhai Zhigang, who graduated from China’s first batch of astronaut trainees in the late 1990s. Mr. Zhai performed China’s first spacewalk.

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Wang Yaping, 41, a veteran of space travel, will be the first female astronaut to visit the new Chinese space station. She conducted experiments on one of the first missions to China in 2013 and led the science class.

Ye Guangfu, 41, will be the third astronaut in this mission. This will be his first time in space.

Beijing began construction of its first permanent space station in April with the launch of Tianhe, or “Heavenly Harmony,” the first and largest of the station’s three modules.

The first three-man crew – Tang Hongbo, Liu Boming and Ni Haisheng – returned in mid-September after serving a 90-day mission on the module. Shenzhou 13 mission members are on average six years younger than their seniors, according to SCMP. Mr. Ni, who is 56 years old, is China’s oldest active astronaut.

The new mission is expected to advance the work of the initial crew, who conducted two spacewalks, deployed a 10-metre mechanical arm, and held a video call with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

China’s military, which runs the space program, said it would send several crews over the next two years to get the station operational. When completed with the addition of two more modules, Mengtian and Ventian, the station is expected to weigh 66 tons, a fraction of the size of the International Space Station, which was launched in 1998.

After being pulled out of the International Space Station due to the United States’ objections to the secrecy of the Chinese program and close military ties, China decided to build its own space stations in the early 1990s.

Beijing has sent 14 astronauts to space since 2003, becoming the third country after the then Soviet Union and the United States to achieve the feat.

The country also landed its Tianwen-1 space probe on Mars this year, with the Jurong rover searching for evidence of life on the planet.


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