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Shenzhou-13 crew arrive at space station

2021-10-16 HKT 10:11
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  • A screen image captured at Beijing Aerospace Control Centre shows the Shenzhou-13 capsule about to dock with the space station. Photo: Xinhua, via AP
    A screen image captured at Beijing Aerospace Control Centre shows the Shenzhou-13 capsule about to dock with the space station. Photo: Xinhua, via AP
Three taikonauts successfully docked with China's new space station on Saturday on what is set to be Beijing's longest crewed mission to date and the latest landmark in its drive to become a major space power.

The three blasted off shortly after midnight from the Jiuquan launch centre in the Gobi desert, the China Manned Space Agency said, with the team expected to spend six months at the Tiangong space station.

The space agency declared the launch a success and said the crew "were in good shape".

The Shenzhou-13 vessel carrying the three completed its docking with the radial port of the space station less than seven hours after the launch.

The mission, which is expected to last twice as long as a previous 90-day visit, will involve the crew setting up equipment and testing technology for future construction on the Tiangong station.

Mission commander Zhai Zhigang, 55, a former fighter pilot who performed the country's first spacewalk in 2008, said the team would undertake "more complex" spacewalks than during previous missions.

The crew include military pilot Wang Yaping, 41, who is the first woman to visit the space station after becoming China's second woman in space in 2013.

The other team member is People's Liberation Army pilot Ye Guangfu, 41.

China's heavily promoted space programme has already seen the nation land a rover on Mars and send probes to the moon.

Tiangong, meaning "heavenly palace", is expected to operate for at least 10 years. (AFP)