China’s Shenzhou 13 crew enters space station for 6-month stay.
Length of mission to be one of the biggest challenges for the two men and one woman on board.
Spacecraft connects to core module’s vertical port in complex manoeuvre.
Three Chinese astronauts have successfully entered the core module of Tiangong space station to begin their six-month mission.
The China Manned Space Agency said Shenzhou 13 docked at the space station at 6.56am on Saturday morning, about 6½ hours after lift-off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi Desert in northern China.
The Postunderstands that the three astronauts will enter Tianhe core module at around 10am.
The spacecraft docked at the Tianhe core module’s vertical port facing the Earth, with the other ports already occupied by the Tianzhou 2 and 3 cargo ships, forming a T-shaped combination with a total mass of about 50 tonnes.
A vertical docking manoeuvre is more difficult than horizontal docking because the spaceship needs to be constantly adjusted in the final approach.
Wang Yaping, 41, became the first female astronaut to board the space station, when she and male colleagues Zhai Zhigang, 55, and Ye Guangfu, 41, went aboard the core module.
Before their arrival, the module had been unoccupied for about a month – the Shenzhou 12 crew returned to Earth on September 16.
Space agency spokesman Lin Xiqiang said on Thursday that the core module had been “running steadily in orbit in the past half a year, with all the equipment in good condition”.
Crew commander Zhai said the length of the mission – which is twice as long as the previous mission – was the biggest challenge for the astronauts.
“The six-month stay in space without gravity is an unprecedented test for the astronaut’s physical and psychological health, and the reliability of the equipment,” Zhai said before lift-off.
The space agency will have another spacecraft on standby for launch at short notice in case of an emergency at the Tiangong.
In addition to doing hundreds of aerospace medicine and physics experiments during their stay, the astronauts will also do two to three spacewalks and install new robotic arms to help with future construction operations.
A source from Jiuquan launch centre said the crew would also have to oversee the arrival of the Tianzhou 4 cargo ship, which is scheduled for launch early next year.
“It will be the first time a cargo ship will dock with the help of the astronauts on board.
They will test the manual docking systems then,” the Jiuquan source said.
In February, the crew will also become the first Chinese astronauts to celebrate Lunar New Year in space, and festive supplies were sent up in a delivery in September.
Shenzhou 13 will be the space agency’s last major mission this year.
Another six missions – two of them crewed – are planned for next year to finish construction of the space station and deliver two laboratory modules, the Wentian and Mengtian.
The Shenzhou 15 crew will carry out an in-orbit rotation with the Shenzhou 14 crew, meaning the space station will become home to six astronauts for the first time.
When completed, Tiangong will be about a quarter of the size of the International Space Station, which was built by a coalition of 16 countries.
The Chinese space station is likely to be the only one in near-Earth orbit by the end of the decade because the ageing ISS, especially its Russian Zvezda service module, is nearing the end of its life.
O presidente da República Popular da China, Xi Jinping, disse hoje que o país “pode e vai conseguir” a reunificação com Taiwan.