China reveals Shenzhou 18 astronauts ahead of April 25 launch to Tiangong space station (video)

China has unveiled its latest three-person crew set to embark on a six-month-long mission to low Earth orbit. 

Shenzhou 18 is poised to launch on a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan spaceport in northwest China on Thursday (April 25) and head to China’s Tiangong space station. The mission's crew were revealed at a press conference at Jiuquan on Wednesday (April 24), also China’s national space day, by the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA). 

Shenzhou 18 will be commanded by Ye Guangfu, 43, who was part of the Shenzhou 13 mission in 2021-2022. He is joined by fighter pilots Li Cong, born in October 1989, and Li Guangsu, born in July 1987, who will be making their first flights to space.

Related: China rolls out rocket for next astronaut mission to Tiangong space station (photos)

Launch is set for 8:59 a.m. EDT on April 25 (1259 GMT, or 8:59 p.m. Beijing time); you can watch it here at The three astronauts are expected to reach Tiangong around seven hours later.

There, they will join up with the three Shenzhou 17 astronauts who will hand over control of the space station in an official ceremony days later. The Shenzhou 17 crew will then prepare to return to Earth in their own spacecraft, having spent six months in orbit.

The incoming crew have a range of tasks ahead of them, including extravehicular activities (EVAs), or spacewalks.

"The Shenzhou 18 astronauts will carry out six cargo outbound deliveries via the station's cargo airlock module and implement two to three extravehicular activities," Lin Xiqiang, deputy director of the CMSA, said during Wednesday's press conference.

"During the extravehicular activities, the astronauts will install space debris protection reinforcements for extravehicular piping, cables and critical equipment, and carry out extravehicular inspections, as appropriate, to further safeguard the safety of the space station," he said.

Shenzhou 18 will be the seventh crew to visit Tiangong, which China began constructing in 2021. China plans to keep the station constantly occupied and operational for at least a decade and is even planning to expand the orbital outpost with more modules.

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Andrew Jones
Contributing Writer

Andrew is a freelance space journalist with a focus on reporting on China's rapidly growing space sector. He began writing for in 2019 and writes for SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, New Scientist and others. Andrew first caught the space bug when, as a youngster, he saw Voyager images of other worlds in our solar system for the first time. Away from space, Andrew enjoys trail running in the forests of Finland. You can follow him on Twitter @AJ_FI.