China is expected to send a woman astronaut for the upcoming Shenzhou 13 mission, media reports said. The crew is expected to launch on Shenzhou 13 around October 3 from Jiuquan in the Gobi Desert to its new space station, Space.com reported.
The crew has not been officially announced. But according to Chinese media, Wang Yaping is likely to be the first woman on China’s new space station, the report said.
Just two of 12 Chinese astronauts to have flown to space so far have been women. Yaping was the second Chinese woman to be in space in 2013 on Shenzhou 10, after Liu Yang on Shenzhou 9 in 2012.
Yaping visited Tiangong 1, a space lab which was designed as a test bed for the much larger Tianhe module. During the mission, Wang also delivered a lecture to school children from orbit.
Wang is also known to have been in training earlier this year for space station missions, the report said.
The country has recently concluded its Shenzhou 12 mission, with the three-member crew returning to Earth following 90 days aboard the Tianhe module of the Tiangong space station.
Shenzhou 13 will be the last mission this year to build the space station.
When completed, the T-shaped Tiangong (“Heavenly Palace”) space station will be China’s first multi-module space station. In addition to hosting Chinese crews and research, China plans to invite international partners to visit and work aboard the orbiting outpost.
In all, the Tiangong will have a mass of about 100 tonnes, about a quarter of the size of the International Space Station, which was built by a coalition of 16 countries, the South China Morning Post reported.
The Tiangong is likely to be the only space station operating in near-Earth orbit by the end of the decade, because the 15-year-old ISS is ageing, especially its Russian segment, the Zvezda service module, it added.