Science & Technology

China launches first manned mission to space in 5 years

Beijing, Jun 17 (EFE).- The Chinese spacecraft Shenzhou-12 took off successfully on Thursday at 9.22 am (01:22 GMT) with three astronauts on board in the country’s first manned mission to space since 2016.

The spacecraft took off at the scheduled time from the Jiuqian satellite launch center, in the northwest of the country, on the Long March-2F rocket, according to images broadcast live on state television CGTN.

Shenzhou-12 is putting astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo into orbit to participate in the fine-tuning of the Tiangong space station that the country plans to have ready by 2022.

The China Manned Space Agency’s plan is for the Shenzhou-12 to dock with the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft and the Tianhe core module, which was launched on Apr. 29 to exercise control of the Tiangong space station, which should be ready to start operations by the end of 2022.

The astronauts aboard Shenzhou-12 will be stationed in that core module and will remain in orbit for three months.

The trio will work to verify the main technologies to build and operate the Tiangong station, Ji Qiming, deputy director of CMSA, told local press.

The agency plans to carry out 11 launches – four of them manned – to bring another two modules to the Tiangong, which will weigh in total about 70 tons.

According to the state news outlet Xinhua, the space station will orbit Earth at an altitude of between 340 and 450 kilometers, and is designed to last about 10 years, although experts cited by the agency trust that with proper maintenance it could last more than 15 years.

China has so far conducted six manned space missions, the last between October and November 2016 with two crew members of the Shenzhou-11 capsule who conducted a series of experiments over a month in the Tiangong-2 orbiting laboratory. EFE


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