China’s first six-month human spaceflight mission launched Friday at 12:23 p.m. EDT (1623 GMT). Three Chinese astronauts rode into orbit from the Jiuquan launch base in the Gobi Desert on the Shenzhou 13 spacecraft, heading for a link-up with China’s space station about six-and-a-half hours after liftoff.
China’s first six-month human spaceflight mission, set to become a regular occurrence for the rest of the decade, is poised for launch Friday to kick off a trip to the country’s Tiangong space station. Chinese officials unveiled the astronauts for the Shenzhou 13 mission Thursday, publicly naming commander Zhai Zhigang to lead the crew. He will be joined by veteran astronaut Wang Yaping, who became the second Chinese woman to fly in space in 2013, and first-time space flier Ye Guangfu.