China launches 6-month crewed mission as it cements position as global space power
The three astronauts lifted off on the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft just past midnight local time, launched by a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert, located in Inner Mongolia.
They will dock at China’s new space station, Tiangong (which means Heavenly Palace), six and a half hours after launch. They will live and work at the station for 183 days, or just about six months — the country’s longest mission yet.
The crew includes Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping and Ye Guanfu, who will spend the time testing the station’s technology and conducting spacewalks.
Zhai, the mission commander, performed China’s first spacewalk in 2008 and has been awarded the honorary title of “Space Hero” by the government.
This will be Ye’s first mission in space; he is currently a second-level astronaut in the military’s Astronaut Brigade.