China sent a spacecraft with three astronauts to its space station for the first in-orbit crew rotation in Chinese space history. The spacecraft Shenzhou-15 lifted off atop a Long March-2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre at 11.08 p.m. yesterday amid freezing temperatures in the Gobi Desert in northwest China.
The three astronauts will take over from the Shenzhou 14 crew who reached space in June this year. The previous crew members will return to Earth in December after a one week handover. It will be a record for China’s space programme to temporarily sustain 6 astronauts.
The station has a lifespan of at least a decade and resident astronauts are expected to conduct around 1000 scientific experiments right from studying how plants adapt in space to how fluids behave in microgravity.