China's trio of astronauts has reached the "Tiangong" ("Heavenly Palace") space station around six and a half hours after takeoff. As the Chinese space agency announced on Saturday morning, the capsule and the crew were docked at 6:56 am local time on the "Tianhe" ("Heavenly Peace") core module of the space station, which is still under construction. The astronauts will live and work there for around six months. It is by far the longest space mission in China.
At 12:23 am local time (Friday 6:23 pm CEST), the astronauts took off in the "Long March 2F" rocket from the Jiuquan space station on the edge of the Gobi desert. In addition to the 55-year-old commander Zhai Zhigang and the 41-year-old Ye Guangfu, Wang Yaping is the first Chinese astronaut since 2013. "On a business trip for the next six months," the 41-year-old posted on China's social media shortly before joining her after 2013, meanwhile, set off for the second flight into space. Wang will also be given a very special honor on the mission: She will be the first Chinese woman to do a spacewalk.
It is also planned that the three-person crew will test the systems of the core module "Tianhe" on their long-term flight, work outside the spaceship and carry out scientific experiments. Before their stay, six tons of supplies, fuel, and equipment had been brought to the core module on a cargo flight at the end of September.