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Shenzhou XIII space mission to begin on Saturday




By ZHAO LEI in Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center

China plans to launch the Shenzhou XIII manned spacecraft early on Saturday morning, carrying three astronauts who will stay inside the country’s Tiangong space station for six months, one of the lead officials in the country’s manned space program said.

Lin Xiqiang, deputy director of the China Manned Space Agency, said at a news conference on Thursday afternoon at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China that the mission will also feature the first spacewalk by a Chinese woman.

It is expected to become the longest space journey by Chinese astronauts, doubling the time of their peers in the Shenzhou XII mission.

The Shenzhou XIII spacecraft is scheduled to be launched at 12:23 am Saturday by a Long March 2F carrier rocket at the Jiuquan center, Lin said. It will transport Major General Zhai Zhigang, the mission commander, Senior Colonel Wang Yaping and Senior Colonel Ye Guangfu to Tiangong’s core module Tianhe, or Harmony of Heavens.

Wang is China’s second female astronaut to participate in a spaceflight and was a member of the Shenzhou X mission in June 2013. She will become the first Chinese woman to enter the Tiangong space station and conduct a spacewalk, Lin said.

Zhai is the country’s first astronaut to take a spacewalk, having done so when he was mission commander during the Shenzhou VII mission in September 2008. Ye will be making his first journey to space on Saturday.

Lin said the Shenzhou XIII crew is tasked with a wide range of tasks, including performing two to three spacewalks to install a small robotic arm onto a larger one; verifying key procedures and technologies such as the manual control of the robotic arms and the robotic arm-assisted movement of station modules; checking the performance and capability of devices inside the station; and testing support instruments for astronauts’ lives and work during long-term flights.

He added that they will conduct scientific experiments and technology demonstrations in space medicine, microgravity physics and other fields.

Liquid propellants have started to be injected into the rocket that will carry the astronauts to space, according to Lin.

Shenzhou XIII will be the fourth spacecraft to visit China’s permanent space station — named Tiangong, or Heavenly Palace — and the second crewed ship to transport astronauts to the orbiting outpost.

The first astronauts inside Tiangong — Major General Nie Haisheng, Major General Liu Boming and Senior Colonel Tang Hongbo — finished their 92-day Shenzhou XII mission in mid-September.

They flew 90 days with Tiangong and made two spacewalks to use a large robotic arm and other equipment to install and adjust devices outside the station. They also performed a number of scientific experiments and technological tests and made video calls with President Xi Jinping and hundreds of researchers, teachers and students in Hong Kong.

One of China’s most challenging and sophisticated space endeavors, Tiangong will consist of three main components — a core module attached to two space labs, with a combined weight of nearly 70 metric tons. The entire station is expected to operate for about 15 years in a low-Earth orbit, about 400 kilometers above the planet.

The station’s core module Tianhe was lifted by a Long March 5B heavy-lift rocket at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province in late April.

The craft is now connected with the Tianzhou 2 unmanned cargo ship that was launched from the Wenchang facility in late May, and the Tianzhou 3, another unmanned cargo ship that was lifted from Wenchang last month.

The biggest and heaviest spacecraft China has ever constructed, Tianhe is 16.6 meters long and has a diameter of 4.2 meters. The craft’s weight, at 22.5 tons, is equal to the combined weight of 15 standard-size automobiles. It has three parts: a connecting section, a life-support and control section, and a resources section.

In 2022, two large space labs will be launched to connect with the core module. Moreover, two manned missions and two robotic cargo flights will be made that year to continue construction of the Tiangong station, which is scheduled to become complete and start formal operation around the end of 2022.

Upon its completion, Tiangong will be manned regularly by groups of three astronauts in periods lasting several months. During handovers to new three-astronaut groups, the station will accommodate up to six astronauts.

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Maldives to experience rain nationwide on voting day





Meteorological Center (MET Office) has reported Maldives will experience rainfall nationwide on Sunday, amid the parliamentary election.

MET Office on Saturday forecasts heavy rainfall accompanied with thunder from Laamu atoll to Addu atoll. The authority also forecasts rainfall from central parts to northern atolls as well.

The weather authority also reported that the winds speeds will be between 5 to 15 miles per hour nationwide.

Despite rainfall nationwide, the seas would not be rough to interrupt sea transportation, MET added.

With many already traveling to their home islands to cast vote in the parliamentary election, the government has already announced Monday, April 22nd will be a public holiday as well.


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Middle East countries voice concern over military escalation after alleged Israeli attack on Iran





Countries in the Middle East have voiced their concern over military escalation in the region after Israel on Friday allegedly struck sites near the city of Isfahan, central Iran, in what appeared to be its military response to Iran’s recent retaliatory attack.

In a statement, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry called on the two sides to exercise the utmost restraint and to fully comply with the rules of international law and the UN Charter, warning against widening the conflict and instability in the region.

Egypt stressed that it will continue to intensify communications with all concerned and influential parties to contain the ongoing escalation and tension.

In addition, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the ministry “is constantly monitoring the tension in the region,” expressing its deep concern about the attack targeting Isfahan on Friday morning.

The ministry said that the escalation must not distract attention from the destruction and loss of innocent lives in the Gaza Strip, renewing its call on the international community to perform its duties and work to stop the suffering of the Palestinian people, according to the statement.

Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister Ayman Safadi on Friday stressed the need to reduce the dangerous escalation in the region and reiterated that “Jordan will not allow it to be turned into an arena of conflict between Iran and Israel and to endanger its security and the safety of its citizens.”

Safadi, who also serves as the Jordanian foreign minister, added on social media platform X that “the current escalation only serves to divert attention away from the Israeli aggression on Gaza, stopping which must be the priority.”

The Israeli attack came after Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps confirmed Saturday that it had launched missile and drone attacks on Israel in retaliation for earlier airstrikes by Israel on April 1 on the Iranian consulate building in the Syrian capital of Damascus, which killed seven Iranians.

So far, Israel has not officially acknowledged the strikes on Isfahan, while Iran has not publicly accused Israel of carrying them out.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Foreign Ministry on Friday condemned the Israeli strikes on Syrian military sites earlier in the day as a flagrant violation of Syrian sovereignty and a threat to regional stability.

In a statement, the ministry warned that such actions could escalate tensions in the region, potentially leading to a broader conflict, and urged the international community, including the UN Security Council, to condemn the attack and take decisive measures to halt the “crimes” committed by Israel.

In the early hours of Friday, the Israeli military launched a series of airstrikes targeting Syrian air defense sites in the southern region, according to the Syrian Defense Ministry. The strikes caused material losses, while no casualties were reported, it added.

The attack was also confirmed by the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which reported that more than six Israeli aircraft were observed flying intensively in southern Syria.

The radar battalion responsible for monitoring the airspace, located in the east of Syria’s Daraa province, was targeted, the war monitor added.

Source(s): CGTN

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This is a golden opportunity to cooperate with a government: President





President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu states this is a golden opportunity for a parliament that will cooperate with a government that wants to produce results.

Speaking at a meeting with Addu City constituents residing in Male’ City on Friday night, the President said his administration’s only focus is to produce results.

He described the upcoming parliament election as a golden opportunity for a parliament that will cooperate with a government that wants to produce results.

“My focus is on results, nothing else. It is results that the people want, is it not? The result of development and the result of stability, is that not what people have been wanting?” he questioned.

Speaking further, President Muizzu, underscoring the nation had not seen the desired number of changes in the past years, said his administration will not spend time on anything other than producing results.

“This is truly a golden opportunity. You are receiving a golden opportunity to pave the way for full cooperation necessary within the parliament to a government that is solely focused on producing results,” he said.

Citing the aforementioned reasons, he urged the public to vote for ruling PPM-PNC coalition’s candidates contesting in the parliamentary election slated for Sunday.

MDP has the largest number of candidates contesting this parliamentary election at 90 constituencies, followed by PPM-PNC coalition at 89 constituencies.

A total of 368 candidates are contesting for 93 constituencies.

Polling stations will be open from 8:00am to 5:30pm on Sunday; a decision made by the Elections Commission earlier today, which is undertaking final preparations for the election.


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