China launches long­est manned space mis­sion

> Two as­tro­nauts to spend 30 days aboard or­bit­ing lab

The Sun (Malaysia) - - NEWS WITHOUT BORDERS -

BEI­JING: China launched its long­est manned space mis­sion yes­ter­day, send­ing two as­tro­nauts into or­bit to spend a month aboard a space lab­o­ra­tory that is part of a broader plan to have a per­ma­nent manned space sta­tion in ser­vice around 2022.

The Shen­zhou-11 blasted off on a Long March rocket at 7.30am from the re­mote launch site in Ji­uquan, in the Gobi desert, in im­ages car­ried live on state tele­vi­sion.

The as­tro­nauts will dock with the Tian­gong 2 space lab­o­ra­tory, or “Heav­enly Palace 2”, which was sent into space last month. It will be the long­est stay in space by Chi­nese as­tro­nauts, state me­dia re­ported.

Fan Chang­long, a vice-chair­man of China’s pow­er­ful Cen­tral Mil­i­tary Com­mis­sion, met as­tro­nauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong early yes­ter­day and wished them well, state news agency Xin­hua re­ported.

“You are go­ing to travel in space to pur­sue the space dream of the Chi­nese na­tion,” Fan said.

“With all the sci­en­tific and rig­or­ous train­ing, dis­creet prepa­ra­tion, and rich ex­pe­ri­ence ac­cu­mu­lated from pre­vi­ous mis­sions, you will ac­com­plish the glo­ri­ous and tough task. We wish you suc­cess and look for­ward to your tri­umphant re­turn.”

Shen­zhou-11 is the third space voy­age for Jing, who will com­mand the mis­sion and cel­e­brate his 50th birth­day in or­bit.

In a manned space mis­sion in 2013, three Chi­nese as­tro­nauts spent 15 days in or­bit and docked with a space lab­o­ra­tory, the Tian­gong 1.

Ad­vanc­ing China’s space pro­gramme is a pri­or­ity for Bei­jing, with Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping call­ing for the coun­try to es­tab­lish it­self as a space power.

China in­sists its space pro­gramme is for peace­ful pur­poses.

Shen­zhou-11, which trans­lates as “Divine Ves­sel”, will also carry three ex­per­i­ments de­signed by Hong Kong mid­dle school stu­dents se­lected in a sci­ence com­pe­ti­tion, in­clud­ing one that will take silk worms into space.

The US De­fence Depart­ment has high­lighted China’s in­creas­ing space ca­pa­bil­i­ties, say­ing it was pur­su­ing ac­tiv­i­ties aimed at pre­vent­ing other na­tions us­ing space-based as­sets in a cri­sis.

China has been work­ing to de­velop its space pro­gramme for mil­i­tary, com­mer­cial and sci­en­tific pur­poses, but is still play­ing catch-up to es­tab­lished space pow­ers the US and Rus­sia. – Reuters

The Long March-2F car­rier rocket trans­port­ing Shen­zhou-11 blasts off from the launch pad at the Ji­uquan Satel­lite Launch Cen­tre yes­ter­day.

Jing (left) and Chen salute be­fore the launch of Shen­zhou-11 in Ji­uquan yes­ter­day.

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