Six hours after the Shenzhou 13 spacecraft lifted off from northwestern China, the capsule docked with the core module of the country’s future space station Saturday.
On board were two veteran astronauts and the first woman assigned to China’s space station mission, Wang Yaping.
The taikonauts — the name for Chinese astronauts — were blasted into space by the Long March-2F rocket at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center center in Gansu province.
China’s space agency declared the launch a success and said the crew “were in good shape.”
The three will live and work for the next six months aboard the core module of the Tiangong space station, which is under construction.
The core module is called Tianhe and is slightly bigger than a city bus.
The mission will be the longest for Chinese astronauts. A previous crew spent 90 days in space.
The crew will conduct spacewalks to install equipment for the expansion of the station while also conducting various other experiments.
Wang is expected to be the first Chinese woman to perform a space walk.
Launch of Long March-2F Y13 rocket in northwestern Gansu province destined for the Tiangong space station
China is not part of the International Space Station, because of US concerns over national security.
Beijing has spent the past decade developing technologies to build its own.
When completed with the addition of two more sections, the station will weigh about 66 tons, much
smaller than the International Space Station, which weighs around 450 tons.
Two more Chinese modules are due to be launched before the end of next year during the stay of the yet-to-be-named Shenzhou-14 crew.
With the ISS set to retire in a few years, China’s space station will become the only one in Earth’s orbit.
China’s Foreign Ministry on Friday renewed its commitment to cooperation with other nations in the peaceful use of space.
Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said sending humans into space was a “common cause of mankind.”
China would “continue to extend the depth and breadth of international cooperation and exchanges” in
crewed spaceflight and “make positive contributions to the exploration of the mysteries of the universe,” he said.
mm, kb/wmr (AP, Reuters)