Two as­tro­nauts to be launched into space on Mon­day

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

Chi­nese of­fi­cials un­veiled plans for Mon­day’s launch of the coun­try’s lat­est space mis­sion in which two as­tro­nauts will be blasted into space and will dock with an or­bit­ing space lab.

The Shen­zhou 11 space­craft will be launched at 7:30 a.m., said Wu Ping, deputy di­rec­tor of China’s manned space en­gi­neer­ing of­fice, in a tele­vised news con­fer­ence.

The Shen­zhou mis­sion will take off aboard a Long March-2F car­rier rocket from the Ji­uquan Satel­lite Launch Cen­ter on the edge of the Gobi Desert in north­ern China.

The space­craft will dock with the Tian­gong 2 space sta­tion within two days and the as­tro­nauts will stay there for 30 days to test the com­plex’s abil­ity to sup­port their life. They will also con­duct med­i­cal and sci­en­tific ex­per­i­ments, Wu said.

An ear­lier Tian­gong 1 ex­per­i­men­tal space sta­tion launched in 2011 went out of ser­vice in March af­ter ex­tend­ing its mis­sion for two years and dock­ing with three vis­it­ing space­craft. The Tian­gong, or “Heav­enly Palace,” sta­tions are con­sid­ered step­ping stones to a mis­sion to Mars by the end of the decade.

Wu iden­ti­fied the as­tro­nauts fly­ing the mis­sion as 49-year-old Jing Haipeng and 37-year-old Chen Dong. It will be Jing’s third flight into space fol­low­ing mis­sions in 2008 and 2012.

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