China launches 3 astronauts on 6-month space station mission

This photo, taken by Xinhua News Agency shows the crewed spaceship Shenzhou-13 atop a Long March-2F rocket. It was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, in northwest China's Gobi desert, on October 16, 2021. Credit to Li Gang/Xinhua via AP
China sent three astronauts to the space station on Saturday for a record six-month stay. This is as China moves towards completing its new orbiting outpost.

At 12:25 on Saturday, the Long March-2F rocket launched the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft that carried three astronauts.

Two men and one woman were the second crew to enter the space station since it was launched in April. The initial crew stayed for three months.

Two space veterans are part of the new crew. Zhai Zhigang (55), Wang Yaping (41), and Ye Guangfu (41), are making their first space trip.

A military band and support singers sang "Ode to Motherland" as they escorted the crew off. This was a fitting tribute to the national pride in China's recent space program.

Three spacewalks will be conducted to test equipment, evaluate living conditions in Tianhe and perform experiments in space medicine.

China's military-run satellite program will send several crews to the station in the next two years, to make it fully functional.

The station, when complete with the additions of two additional sections named Mengtian or Wentian, will weigh approximately 66 tons. This is a fraction of what the International Space Station weighs, which was launched in 1998. It will also weigh around 450 tonnes when it is completed.

Zhai Zhigang and Wang Yaping, three Chinese astronauts, wave as they depart for the Shenzhou-13 crewed mission to space at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, northwest China, October 15, 2021. China renewed Friday its commitment to international cooperation for peaceful space use, just a few days before it sent a three-person crew to its space station. (Chinatopix Via AP) CHINA OUT

Two additional Chinese modules will be launched during the Shenzhou-14 crew's stay.

China's Foreign Ministry reaffirmed Friday its commitment to cooperation in peaceful space use with other countries.

Zhao Lijian, spokesperson for China, stated that sending people into space is a "common cause" and that China will "continue to expand the depth and breadth international cooperation and trades in crewed spaceflight." He also said that China will "make positive contributions towards the exploration of the secrets of the universe."

China was expelled from the International Space Station due to U.S. concerns over its secretive nature, close military ties and closely held program. China launched two experimental modules to test the waters before it began on the permanent station.

U.S. law requires Congress approval to contact between the American space programs and China's, but China is working with space experts from France, Russia, Sweden, Russia, and Italy. Chinese officials stated that they are looking forward to hosting astronauts from other nations aboard the space station when it is fully operational.

Since 2003, China has successfully launched seven crewed missions and 14 astronauts since then. It is now the third country to launch a human being into space after the United States. Two Chinese astronauts have flown two times.

China has expanded its lunar and Mars exploration efforts, with a rover placed on the far side of the Moon. The rover also returned lunar rocks to Earth for first time since 1970s.

China also launched its Tianwen-1 space probe to Mars this year. The Zhurong rover accompanying it has been searching for signs of life on Mars.

Another Chinese space program calls for the collection of soil from an asteroids and the return of additional lunar samples. China also has expressed its desire to land humans on the moon, and perhaps build a scientific base there. However, no timeline has been set. Another highly secretive space plane is being developed.

Continue reading China renews its space cooperation vow with China's latest mission

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