China sends three new crew members to its space station. They have to expand further and furnish the Heavenly Palace, which is still under construction. The rocket with astronauts Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu will be launched from northwestern China at 6:23 p.m. on Friday.
Zhai, Wang and Ye were presented to the outside world on Thursday. They are expected to return to Earth in April next year.
The space station is called Tiangong, Chinese for Heavenly Palace. The first part of it was launched in April. Until now, it consists of a single tube 16 meters long and 4 meters wide. The first part is Tianhe, Heavenly Harmony. In June, the first three residents went there. First, they conducted several spacewalks, including installing a robotic arm on the outside of the complex. Then, in September, the crew members returned to Earth.
The next two parts of the space station should be launched next year. They are called Wentian (Quest for Heaven) and Mengtian (Dreaming of Heaven).
China is particularly ambitious. The country first flew someone to space in 2003. It was the third country to succeed, after the Soviet Union/Russia and the United States. Earlier this year, the country successfully put an unmanned cart on Mars. In 2019, China was the first to land on the far side of the moon. Other countries prefer to do such projects together with others, but China prefers to work on its own.