Award Banner
Award Banner

China sends astronauts to its space station for 6-month stay

China sends astronauts to its space station for 6-month stay
Chinese astronauts Ye Guangfu, Li Cong and Li Guangsu attend a see-off ceremony before the launch of the Long March-2F carrier rocket, carrying the Shenzhou-18 spacecraft for a crewed mission to China's Tiangong space station, at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre near Jiuquan, Gansu province, China April 25, 2024.
PHOTO: China Daily via Reuters

BEIJING — China sent three astronauts to its permanently inhabited space station on April 25 for a six-month stay, in a regular rotation of Chinese astronauts onboard the "Tiangong" orbiting high above the Earth's atmosphere.

The spacecraft Shenzhou-18, or "Divine Vessel", and its three passengers lifted off atop a Long March-2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in north-west China at 8.58pm, according to state media.

Leading the six-month mission was 43-year-old Ye Guangfu, who last went to Tiangong, or "Heavenly Palace" in Chinese, in October 2021 in China's second crewed mission to the station.

Accompanying him this time were Lieutenant-Colonel Li Cong, 34, and Lieutenant Li Guangsu, 36, both in space for the first time and hailing from the latest batch of astronauts on China's spaceflight programme.

The three men are all former air force pilots.

Completed in late 2022, Tiangong can house a maximum of three astronauts for months at an orbital altitude of up to 450km. It has a designed operational lifespan of at least 15 years.

China has been launching two crewed missions to Tiangong per year since 2021, when construction of the outpost began, with the Shenzhou-18 being the seventh.

Each crew has stayed for around six months, conducting space walks, as well as scientific experiments, inside the station's low-gravity environment.

Tiangong has become an emblem of China's confidence in its space endeavours after being shut out of the Nasa-led International Space Station for decades. China is banned by US law from any collaboration, direct or indirect, with Nasa.

Shenzhou-18 marks China's 13th crewed mission to space since Major-General Yang Liwei's solo spaceflight in October 2003. Maj-Gen Yang was the first Chinese national ever to reach space.

ALSO READ: Cosmonaut to set record for most time spent in space: Russian news agencies

This website is best viewed using the latest versions of web browsers.