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China to send fresh crew to Tiangong space station on Thursday

BI Desk || BusinessInsider

Published: 11:50, 24 April 2024  
China to send fresh crew to Tiangong space station on Thursday

Photo: Collected

China will send a fresh crew to its Tiangong space station on Thursday evening, Beijing's Manned Space Agency announced, the latest mission in a programme that aims to send astronauts to the Moon by 2030.

The Shenzhou-18 mission -- crewed by three astronauts -- is scheduled to take off at 8:59 pm Thursday (1259 GMT) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, Beijing said.

It will be led by Ye Guangfu, a fighter pilot and astronaut who was previously part of the Shenzhou-13 crew in 2021, reports BSS/AFP.

The latest batch of Tiangong astronauts will stay in orbit for six months, carrying out experiments in gravity and physics, as well as in life sciences.

"All pre-launch preparations are on schedule," Deputy Director General of the CMSA Lin Xiqiang told a press conference.

The Tiangong is the crown jewel of Beijing's space programme -- which has also landed robotic rovers on Mars and the Moon -- and made China the third country to put humans in orbit.

It is constantly crewed by rotating teams of three astronauts.

The new crew will replace the Shenzhou-17 team, who were sent to the station in October.

Plans for China's "space dream" have been put into overdrive under President Xi Jinping.

The world's second-largest economy has pumped billions of dollars into its military-run space programme in an effort to catch up with the United States and Russia.

Beijing also aims to send a crewed mission to the Moon by 2030, and plans to build a base on the lunar surface.