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6 months in space – China starts record trip into space

No Chinese has been in space longer …

According to media reports, three Chinese astronauts reached the “Tiangong” (“Heavenly Palace”) space station on Saturday. The rocket was launched on Saturday shortly after midnight (local time, Friday 6:00 p.m. CEST) from the Jiuquan space station in the northwest of the Gobi Desert (Mongolia).

The “Shenzhou-13” spacecraft has now successfully docked with the space station, reported the state news agency Xinhua, citing the Chinese space agency. It could be the longest manned space mission in China to date: The three-person team will spend six months in the core module of the space station under construction.

One of the three astronauts is the military pilot Wang Yaping. The 41-year-old was the second Chinese woman to travel to space and will be the first woman on the Chinese space station. The mission is led by the 55-year-old commander Zhai Zhihang, who in 2008 became the first Chinese to complete a space walk. The team also includes 41-year-old military pilot Ye Guangfu.

Three space walks are planned on the “Heavenly Palace” in order to install equipment for the expansion of the station, to test the living conditions and to carry out experiments in space medicine and other areas.

Since 2003, China has launched seven manned missions with a total of 14 astronauts on board, making it only the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to take a person into space alone. Two Chinese astronauts have flown twice into space.

In recent years, the People’s Republic has invested billions in its space programs in order to catch up with the space nations USA and Russia. The space station’s core module was only launched into orbit at the end of April. According to Chinese plans, “Tiangong” should go into full operation in the coming year.

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