Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, China, Oct 16 (EFE).- Chinese spacecraft Shenzhou-13, which was launched into space at 12:23 am on Saturday, docked at the Tiangong space station, where the three astronauts placed in orbit are expected to remain for six months, the country’s longest crewed mission to date.
The Shenzhou-13 docked successfully with the radial port of the space station’s core module Tianhe at 6:56 am, the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) announced.
The whole process, starting from the spacecraft’s launch from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China’s Gobi Desert to its fast automated rendezvous and docking with Tianhe, took about six-and-a-half hours.
The three astronauts will enter the core module as scheduled, according to the CMSA.
The “Taikonauts,” – as Chinese spacewalkers are called -, include Zhai Zhigang, 55, Ye Guangfu, 41, and Wang Yaping, also 41, who will be the first woman to visit the Chinese space station.
They will spend six months at the space station – named Tiangong, or “Heavenly Palace” – twice the time spent by the previous crew.
This will the most time Chinese astronauts will have ever spent in space.
Shenzhou-13 is the fourth spacecraft to visit Tiangong and the second with a crew after Shenzhou-12 took three astronauts, who returned to Earth last month following a three-month stay.
The space station is expected to be operational by the end of 2022 once the crews of the future Shenzhou-14 and Shenzhou-15 missions complete its construction.
The Tiangong will weigh about 70 metric tons and is expected to operate for 15 years, orbiting about 400 kilometers (248 miles) above the Earth’s surface. EFE