China will send three astronauts to its new space station this week, officials confirmed Thursday, in what will be Beijing’s longest crewed mission to date.
The three aircraft will take off at 12:23 a.m. on Saturday from the launch center in the Gobi Desert in northwestern China, the Chinese Space Agency (CMSA) said at a press conference on Thursday.
They will spend six months in the central module of the Tiangong space station, Tianhe.
Their mission – twice as long as its record-breaking predecessor – is to test “critical technologies” for the Tiangong assembly, CMSA deputy director Lin Xiqiang said.
The mission will also include “two to three” spacewalks to install the components needed for future construction work, Lin said.
The three “taikonauts” – as China calls its astronauts – include Commander Zhai Zhigang, 55, a former People’s Liberation Army (PLA) fighter pilot who in 2008 carried out the first spacewalk in 2008. ‘a Chinese astronaut.
Zhai said the main challenges for astronauts will include spacewalks “more complex” than previous missions and the added physical and mental pressure of living in space for a longer period of time.
But the crew “had the confidence and the ability” to achieve their goals and “lived up to the great trust placed in us by the homeland and the people,” he added on Thursday at a conference. separate press.
Another crew member, Wang Yaping, 41, will become the first female astronaut to visit the country’s space station.
She had previously become the second Chinese woman in space in 2013.
The other member of the team is former APL pilot Ye Guangfu, 41.
The trio were previously the backup crew for the successful Shenzhou-12 mission that ended last month when the astronauts returned safely to Earth in a landing capsule.
The astronauts spent three months at the Tiangong station, which has separate living modules for each of them as well as a shared bathroom, a dining area, and a communication center for sending e- mails and allow video calls with ground control.
The Long March-2F rocket that will transport the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft into space was moved to the launch pad last Thursday, Chinese state media reported.
He’s currently taking propellant ahead of Saturday’s launch, Lin said.
China’s heavily promoted space program has seen the country land a rover on Mars and send probes to the moon.
Beijing’s desire to have its own human outpost in Earth orbit was fueled by a US ban on its astronauts on the International Space Station.
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