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    A Chinese space agency is preparing to send three astronauts to live on its space station for six months. This will count as a new milestone for China’s rapidly advancing space program. The duration of this mission will be China’s longest crewed space mission and will set a record for the most time spent in space by Chinese astronauts.

    The crew will be aboard the Shenzhou-13 spaceship and is expected to launch on a Long March-2F rocket. The rocket will launch early Saturday morning from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre on the edge of the Gobi Desert. The first crew returned from the Tianhe core module in mid-September where they served a 90-day mission.

    This new crew has two veterans of space travel, pilot Zhai Zhigang, 55, who performed China’s first spacewalk, and Wang Yaping, 41, the only woman on the mission. She also carried out experiments and led a science class in real-time while travelling on one of China’s earlier experimental space stations. The final crew member Ye Guangfu, 41, will be travelling to space for the first time.

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