China has launched a rocket at its new space station, reports the state-run Xinhua news agency. Three astronauts are part of the crew.
The spacecraft took off from the Jiuquan launch center in the Gobi Desert of northwest China. The team plans to spend six months at the Tiangong space station. They are tasked with installing equipment and testing technology for future construction in Tiangong. The previous mission had stayed in space for three months.
The mission commander, 55-year-old Zhai Zhigang, is a former fighter pilot who was part of China’s first space mission in 2008. He said the team would conduct “more complex” space operations than previous missions. The astronaut team includes military pilot Wang Yaping, 41, who will become the first woman to visit the Chinese space station. In 2013, she became the second Chinese woman to travel in space.
The other member of the team is Ye Guangfu, a 41-year-old pilot from the People’s Liberation Army.
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