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Nov. 27, 2021

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China launches 3 astronauts on 6-month space station mission

2 men, 1 woman are the second crew to move into station

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The spaceship Shenzhou-13, atop a Long March-2F carrier rocket, is launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center today in northwest China's Gobi Desert.
The spaceship Shenzhou-13, atop a Long March-2F carrier rocket, is launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center today in northwest China's Gobi Desert. (li gang/Xinhua News Agency) Photo Gallery

BEIJING (AP) — China today sent three astronauts to its space station for a record-setting six-month stay as the country moves toward completing the new orbiting outpost

The Shenzhou-13 spacecraft carrying the three astronauts was launched by a Long March-2F rocket at 12:25 a.m. today.

The two men and one woman are the second crew to move into the space station, which was launched last April. The first crew stayed three months.

The new crew includes two veterans of space travel. Zhai Zhigang, 55, and Wang Yaping, 41, and Ye Guangfu, 41, who is making his first trip to space.

The crew was seen off by a military band and supporters singing “Ode to the Motherland,” underscoring the weight of national pride invested in the China’s space program that has advanced rapidly in recent years.

They will do three spacewalks to install equipment in preparation for expanding the station, assess living conditions in the Tianhe module and conduct experiments in space medicine and other fields.

China’s military-run space program plans to send multiple crews to the station over the next two years to make it fully functional.

When completed with the addition of two more sections — named Mengtian and Wentian — the station will weigh about 66 tons, a fraction of the size of the International Space Station, which launched its first module in 1998 and will weigh around 450 tons when completed.

The two additional Chinese modules are due to be launched before the end of next year during the stay of the yet-to-be-named Shenzhou-14 crew.

China’s Foreign Ministry on Friday renewed its commitment to cooperation with other nations in the peaceful use of space.

Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said sending humans into space was a “common cause of mankind,” and China would “continue to extend the depth and breadth of international cooperation” in crewed spaceflight and “make positive contributions to the exploration of the mysteries of the universe.”

China was excluded from the International Space Station largely due to U.S. objections over the Chinese program’s secretive nature and close military ties, prompting it to launch two experimental modules before starting on the permanent station.

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