Ye Guangfu, Zhai Zhigang and Wang Yaping (from left to right) before their start: the crew has now reached their destination, the “Tiangong” space station.
Photo: LIU HUAIYU / EPA
The first part of the trip was a success: two Chinese astronauts and one astronaut have reached the “Tiangong” (“Heavenly Palace”) space station.
They want to stay there for six months - it would be the longest manned Chinese space mission.
was launched on Saturday at 0.23 a.m. (local time corresponds to Friday 6.23 p.m. Central European summer time) from the Jiuquan space station in the northwest of the Gobi desert and docked at the space station at 6.56 a.m.
First spacewalk by a Chinese woman
According to the Chinese space agency, all three team members are "in good shape."
They were seen floating in the space station in a live video.
"We will cooperate with each other, perform maneuvers carefully and try to complete all tasks successfully," said Wang Yaping, 41.
For the military pilot it is the second time in space since 2013. Now she is to be the first woman from China to venture a space walk.
The mission is led by Zhai Zhihang, 55, who in 2008 became the first man from China to complete a space walk.
The team also includes military pilot Ye Guangfu, 41.
The core module of the "Tiangong" was only brought into orbit at the end of April and is still under construction.
According to Chinese plans, the space station should go into full operation in the coming year.
The previous team had spent three months on the "Tiangong" and returned to Earth in September.
Smaller and lighter than the ISS
The Chinese space agency is planning a total of eleven missions to the station by the end of 2022. Among other things, two new laboratory units are to be brought into orbit.
When everything is ready, the »Tiangong« will weigh around 66 tons - making the space station much smaller and lighter than the International Space Station ISS.
This weighs around 450 tons.
China has invested billions in its space programs in recent years to catch up with the United States and Russia.
China's space ambitions were fueled in part by a US ban on Chinese space travelers on the ISS.
The ISS is operated in collaboration with the USA, Russia, Canada, European countries and Japan.
It should be in service until 2024.
From China it is said that they are looking forward to welcoming astronauts from other countries to the »Tiangong«.
Under American law, cooperation between the American and Chinese space programs requires congressional approval.
However, China is already cooperating with scientists from France, Sweden, Russia and Italy.
vet / AP / AFP