A Chinese cargo ship docked with the country’s space station under construction on Tuesday ahead of a new three-member crew expected to arrive next month.

The Tianzhou-4 spacecraft was launched into space on a Long March-7 Y5 rocket at 1:56 a.m. (11:26 p.m.) from the Wenchang launch base in the southern island province of Hainan. State media reported that he joined the station about seven hours later.

The cargo ship was carrying supplies for the crew’s next six-month stay, along with research equipment and spare parts to maintain the station.

The last crew of the station returned to Earth last month after six months on the station, the longest space mission in China so far.

China intends to complete construction of the station this year with the addition of two laboratory modules in July and October to connect to the live Tianhe module, which was launched in April 2021. Another cargo ship, the Tianzhou-3, remains attached to the station.

China’s space program launched its first astronaut into orbit in 2003, making China only the third country to use its own resources after the former Soviet Union and the United States.

He landed robot rovers on the moon and landed one on Mars last year. China also returned samples from the moon, and officials discussed a possible mission with a crew to the moon.

The government announced in 2020 that China’s first reusable spacecraft had landed after a test flight, but no photos or details were released.

China has been expelled from the International Space Station because of US concerns that its space program is run by the military wing of the ruling Communist Party, the People’s Liberation Army.

The Shenzhou 14 crew mission is scheduled to launch next month for a six-month stay. Towards the end of this mission, three more astronauts will be released aboard Shenzhou 15 for another six months, with the two crews overlapping in three to five days, the first time the station has six people on board.

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