China's New Space Mission

China's New Space Mission
China's New Space Mission

China will send a fresh crew to its Tiangong space station, 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 from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, Beijing announced.

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

He will be joined by astronauts Li Cong and Li Guangsu, who are heading into space for the first time.

At a press conference, Commander Ye described the launch as a "new beginning".

"Facing the challenge, my two teammates and I are fully prepared. We are full of confidence in completing this mission!" he said.

Li Guangsu, in turn, said he wanted to take a "good look at the beautiful blue planet, the splendid mountains and rivers of the motherland, and find the places that have nurtured me along the way".

"I also want to see for my lovely child if the stars in the sky can really twinkle or not," he added.

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.

They will also carry out a "project on high-resolution global greenhouse gas detection", Deputy Director General of the CMSA Lin Xiqiang said.

The Tiangong, which means "heavenly palace", is the crown jewel of a space programme that has landed robotic rovers on Mars and the Moon, and made China the third country to independently put humans in orbit.

The Tiangong is expected to remain in low Earth orbit above the planet for at least 10 years.

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

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