By Alvaro Alfaro
Jiuquan, China, Oct 14 (EFE).- China will send three astronauts, including a woman, to its space station early on Saturday.
The China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) announced Thursday that the astronauts would take off in the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft that will blast off at 00.23 hours.
The mission will launch from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northern China.
It will be the second of four crewed missions to complete the construction of China’s space station, Tiangong.
The three astronauts will stay in space for six months, twice as long as the previous crewmembers, who returned to Earth in September.
China is planning to make the space station fully operational next year.
Space agency deputy director Lin Xiqiang told reporters that the astronauts are Zhai Zhigang, 55, Ye Guangfu, 41, and Wang Yaping, a 41-year-old woman.
Both Zhai and Wang are veterans of the Chinese space program.
Zhai flew into space in 2008 aboard the Shenzhou-7 spacecraft. Wang was part of the Shenzhou-10 crew in 2013.
Ye Guangfu described his first space trip as “a great challenge” for which he is ready “with full confidence” thanks to his “eleven years of work.”
Wang, born in 1980, who was part of the Shenzhou-10 crew in 2013, will become the first woman to visit the unfinished Tiangong space station.
The ratio of women in the Chinese space program remains low.
There have been only two female astronauts among the 14 who have visited space since 2003.
The first was Liu Yang, who completed the mission in 2012, one year before Wang stayed in space for two weeks.
Wang, formerly a captain of the Chinese air force, became famous after giving video lectures on physics from space to schools across the country.
She said she would again conduct online classes during her new trip to space.
The three astronauts are all members of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
The space station will orbit the Earth at an altitude between 340 and 450 km. It is designed to last about ten years.
Lin said the new mission seeks to test the ability of the astronauts and the spacecraft for a prolonged stay.