Science & Technology

China successfully launches spacecraft with new crew to space station

(Update: adds launch)

Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, China, Oct 15 (EFE).- China on Friday launched the Shenzhou-XIII spacecraft carrying three astronauts to the Tiangong space station, where they will stay for six months.

The launch took place at 12:23 am on Saturday, as scheduled.

The astronauts will continue the construction of the space station, which Beijing expects to have operational by the end of next year.

The deputy director of the China Manned Space Agency, Lin Xiqian, revealed the identity of the three astronauts at a press conference on Thursday: Zhai Zhigang, 55, Ye Guangfu, 41, and a woman, Wang Yaping, also 41.

Zhai traveled to space in 2008 aboard the Shenzhou VII and Wang was part of the Shenzhou X mission in 2013.

It is Ye Guangfu’s first trip to space.

These “Taikonauts,” as Chinese spacewalkers are called, will spend six months at China’s permanent space station – named Tiangong, or “Heavenly Palace” – twice the time spent by the previous crew, who returned to Earth last month.

This will the most time Chinese astronauts will have ever spent in space.

However, according to Lin, stays of six months will be “common” in future missions, so one of the objectives of this mission is to test the astronauts and the facilities’ capacity for extended stays.

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