BEIJING: China on Saturday launched a rocket carrying three astronauts to its new space station on what is about to be the nation’s longest crewed mission to date, state media mentioned, within the newest landmark in Beijing’s drive to develop into a serious extraterrestrial energy.
The three blasted off shortly after midnight (1600 GMT) from the Jiuquan launch centre in northwestern China’s Gobi desert, state-run information company Xinhua mentioned, with the workforce anticipated to spend six months on the Tiangong space station.
After the launch, the China Manned Space Agency declared it successful and mentioned the crew members “were in good shape”, in accordance to Xinhua.
The mission — twice so long as its 90-day predecessor — will arrange gear and take a look at expertise for future building on Tiangong.
Mission commander Zhai Zhigang, 55, a former fighter pilot who carried out the nation’s first spacewalk in 2008, mentioned the workforce would undertake “more complex” spacewalks than throughout earlier missions.
The astronaut workforce consists of navy pilot Wang Yaping, 41, who will develop into the primary girl to go to the nation’s space station, after beforehand changing into China’s second girl in space in 2013.
The different workforce member is People’s Liberation Army pilot Ye Guangfu, 41.
A earlier record-breaking space crew — making the primary mission to Tiangong — returned to earth in September after three months on the space station.
China’s closely promoted space programme has already seen the nation land a rover on Mars and ship probes to the moon.
Tiangong, which means “heavenly palace”, is anticipated to function for at the least 10 years.
Its core module entered orbit earlier this yr, with the station anticipated to be operational by 2022.
The accomplished station shall be comparable to the Soviet Mir station that orbited Earth from the Nineteen Eighties till 2001.
The lengthy mission is about to “expand China’s technological boundary” and confirm the space station system’s capability for an extended period of human occupation, Chen Lan, an unbiased space analyst at GoTaikonauts, advised AFP.
“I don’t think it is very challenging, as China’s technologies (are) quite mature, though anything in space is always challenging,” Chen mentioned.
– Space race –
Saturday’s blast-off got here shortly after China launched its first photo voltaic exploration satellite tv for pc into space, geared up with a telescope to observe modifications within the Sun.
The Chinese space company is planning a complete of 11 missions to Tiangong by to the tip of subsequent yr, together with at the least two extra crewed launches that can ship two lab modules to increase the 70-tonne station.
China’s space ambitions have been fuelled partly by a US ban on its astronauts on the International Space Station, a collaboration among the many United States, Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan.
The ISS is due for retirement after 2024, though NASA has mentioned it may doubtlessly stay purposeful past 2028.
Chinese space authorities have mentioned they’re open to international collaboration on the space station, though the scope of that cooperation is as but unclear.
The nation has come a great distance since its first satellite tv for pc in 1970.
It put the primary Chinese “taikonaut” in space in 2003 and landed the Chang’e-4 robotic on the far facet of the Moon in 2019 — a historic first.
China turned the second nation to land and function a rover on Mars in May.
Astronauts on the Tiangong space station may have separate residing areas, train gear and a communication centre for emails and video calls with floor management.