China’s Shenzhou-13 spacecraft docks with the Tiangong space station safely, and three astronauts enter the core module.

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China’s Shenzhou-13 spacecraft docks with the Tiangong space station safely, and three astronauts enter the core module.

At 6:56 a.m., the Shenzhou-13 (Divine Vessel) docked safely at the space station’s port (21:56 GMT).

#Shenzhou13 docked with the radial port of the Tianhe core module at 6:56 a.m. on Saturday morning, safely arriving at China’s #Tiangong space station. For the crew of three Chinese astronauts, this was the start of an unprecedented six-month stay in orbit. #神舟十三号pic.twitter.com/WZS4nd1KQx The three astronauts, known in China as ‘taikonauts,’ arrived at the Tianhe core module of the space station at 10:03 a.m., according to the China Manned Space Agency.

Inside Tiangong, footage shows them welcoming mission control on Earth, getting to know the station’s equipment, and having a good time in zero gravity.

Astronauts from #Shenzhou13 have docked at the #Tiangong Space Station (CSS)! In Tiangong, they’ve officially started their six months of space exploration and experiments! https://t.co/lLZ5qfOB9apic.twitter.com/0yLPmAo4h0 HD: https://t.co/lLZ5qfOB9a The crew of three – Zhai Zhigang, 55, Wang Yaping, 41, and Ye Guangfu, 41 – will spend the next six months in orbit, making it China’s longest mission in space history.

They will use this time to test essential technology and robots needed to assemble the space station, as well as test the onboard life support systems and conduct numerous scientific studies.

While this is Ye’s first voyage to space, mission commander Zhai has been to space twice before, doing China’s first spacewalk in 2008. Wang, the Tiangong space station’s first female astronaut, has previously traveled to orbit (2013).

In April, China began work on the space station, with the goal of completing the enormous project by late 2022. Its largest Tianhe module, as well as Tianzhou-2 and Tianzhou-3 cargo craft, are currently on board. After 90 days in orbit, the first crew of three astronauts returned to Earth in September.

China aims to send two more manned trips to Tiangong and add two more modules to the station after Zhai, Wang, and Ye return to Earth in April 2022.

After the old International Space Station (ISS) stops operating in a few years, Tiangong will most likely be the sole station in orbit.

Due to US rules prohibiting China from collaborating with NASA, it was unable to participate in the ISS project, which is being carried out jointly by Russia, the United States, Europe, Japan, and Canada.

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