China just unveiled the crew that will launch on its Shenzhou 15 mission Tuesday (Nov. 29) and spend the next six months in space.
Commander Fei Junlong and crewmates Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu met the press on Monday (Nov. 28), just a day before the scheduled launch of their spacecraft from Jiuquan in the Gobi Desert. China’s human spaceflight agency, CMSA, is run by the country’s military and typically keeps the identity of its crews secret until close to launch.
Shenzhou 15's launch on a Long March 2F rocket is set for Tuesday at 10:08 a.m. EST (1508 GMT; 11:08 p.m. local time). You can watch it live here at Space.com, courtesy of CCTV; coverage begins at 6:30 a.m EST (1130 GMT).
The trio will fly to the recently completed Tiangong space station. They will join the Shenzhou 14 astronauts aboard Tiangong and complete China’s first-ever and highly anticipated crew handover in orbit.
Commander Fei Junlong, 57, is making his return to space after a 17-year wait. Fei was selected among China’s first batch of astronauts in 1998 and commanded the five-day-long Shenzhou 6 mission in 2005.
Deng Qingming, 56, was also chosen to be a member of the first generation of astronauts but has needed to wait a long time for his opportunity to fly to space.
"As an astronaut, my normal shape is to stay committed to the original aspiration of spaceflight missions and never stop training, which is also my attitude," Deng said during the Nov. 28 press conference at Jiuquan.
"For me, I can spend my whole life getting prepared silently, but I will never allow myself to be unprepared when the task comes by," said Deng.
Zhang Lu, 46, is also making his first trip to space and is part of China's second batch of astronauts selected in May 2010.
"I'm looking forward to experiencing the wonderful feeling in zero gravity and to completing our space home with our own hands," Zhang said.
The Shenzhou 15 crew — all of whom enjoy calligraphy as a hobby, according to Chinese media — will spend six months in space conducting a range of experiments and maintaining the space station.