JIUQUAN, China, Oct 14 (Reuters) – China will send three astronauts to a space station under construction early on Saturday, including the first female crew member to visit the structure, where they will have to stay for six months.
It will be the second of four manned missions to the station, scheduled for completion by the end of next year.
The Shenzhou-13 spacecraft will be launched on Saturday at 00:23 Beijing time (1623 GMT), Lin Xiqiang, spokesman for the China Manned Space Program, told reporters.
Zhai Zhigang, 55, hailing from the first generation of Chinese astronauts in the late 1990s, will be the commander of the Shenzhou-13 mission, Lin said.
Zhai will be accompanied by Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu, both 41 years old. Wang will be the first female astronaut to visit the Chinese station.
The mission, known as Shenzhou-13, which means “divine ship” in Chinese, will be Zhai and Wang’s second space mission and Ye’s first.
China began construction of what will be its first permanent space station in April with the launch of Tianhe, the first and largest of the station’s three modules.
Tianhe, slightly larger than a city bus, will be the accommodation once the space station is completed.
The three-person crew from the previous Shenzhou-12 mission stayed in Tianhe for 90 days, from June to September. (Reporting by Carlos García Rawlins; written by Ryan Woo and Liangping Gao in Beijing; edited in Spanish by Benjamín Mejías Valencia)