Update 1: Adds info about spacecraft’s arrival, updates headline
Beijing, May 30 (EFE).- China’s Shenzhou-16 spacecraft, carrying three astronauts, successfully docked with the Tiangong space station Tuesday, according to China’s Manned Missions Space Agency.
Shenzhou-16 reached its destination at 4:29 p.m. local time (08.29 GMT), and carried out rapid automated docking with the space station, after a journey that lasted approximately six and a half hours.
The passengers aboard the spacecraft will enter the Tianhe module, where the three astronauts from the Shenzhou-15 mission are prepared for their arrival.
China’s spacecraft Shenzhou-16 blasted off earlier Tuesday for the Tiangong space station, and became the first to board it after the previous crew completed its construction in late 2022.
The launch was successfully carried out from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China’s Gobi Desert, at 9:31 am.
A Long March 2F rocket propelled Shenzhou-16 into space, carrying the three-member crew, who will spend approximately five months in Tiangong.
The new crew comprises a veteran with four missions, Jing Haipeng, and two first timers, Zhu Yangzhu and Gui Haichao, who is also the first Chinese astronaut who is not a member of the People’s Liberation Army.
The three taikonauts – as astronauts are called in China – will be the first crew of Tiangong during its application and development phase.
The Shenzhou-16 is the seventh spacecraft to visit Tiangong.
The astronauts aboard will spend a few days with the crew that has been manning the space station for the last six months and who arrived at the station aboard the Shenzhou-15 for the first in-orbit crew handover at the Tiangong.
By 2024, Tiangong, which will operate for around 10 years, could become the world’s only space station if the International Space Station, a United States-led initiative to which China is barred due to military ties to its space program, is withdrawn that year as planned.
In recent years, the Chinese space program has achieved successes such as landing the Chang’e 4 probe on the hidden side of the Moon – the first time it has been achieved – and reaching Mars for the first time, becoming the third country to do so after the US and the former Soviet Union. EFE