China is sending three astronauts to the new space station | on the first manned mission in five years World news
China has launched its first manned mission in five years, sending three people to its new space station.
The astronauts are traveling on the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft launched by a Long March-2F Y12 rocket.
They started at 2.22 a.m. UK time from the launch center on the edge of the Gobi Desert in northern China.
To see them off, the commander of China’s manned space program, military personnel, and children waved flags and sang patriotic songs.
The trio – Nie Haisheng, 56, Liu Boming, 54, and Tang Hongbo, 45 – waved as they stepped into the elevator that took them to the spacecraft.
You will spend three months in the Tianhe (Heavenly Harmony) space station module, doing experiments, testing equipment, performing maintenance and preparing the site for future visits.
Mr. Nie is a veteran and said, “This will be the first manned flight in the space station (construction) phase and I am fortunate to have the ‘first baton’.
Mr. Liu is also experienced – he was selected for the Chinese space program in the 1990s – and Mr. Tang is a former Air Force pilot on his first space flight.
Mr. Tang said, “I’ve waited 11 years, and finally I’m ready and able to bring my strength to bear.”
During their time on the Tianhe, which is slightly larger than a bus, the men are also monitored to see how they cope with the time in space, both physically and mentally.
Since the country’s first manned mission began in 2003, 14 Chinese astronauts have now traveled into space.
China is not involved in the International Space Station, largely because the US has opposed the secrecy of its space program and its close ties to the country’s military.
But China is increasingly working with Russia and some other countries, and its space station could indeed outlast the ISS, which is nearing the end of its functional life.
China is planning eleven missions to the Tianhe in the coming year in order to further develop and supply the station.
The rocket the astronauts used on Thursday is a different type than the one that launched the Tianhe into space and then controversially made an uncontrolled reentry to Earth.
Any parts that get back into the earth’s atmosphere are expected to burn up long before they can become dangerous, according to Ji Qiming, deputy director of the China Manned Space Agency.