China sends two astronauts to space lab
CHINA launched two astronauts into space yesterday on a mission to its orbiting laboratory as the country works toward setting up its own space station.
The Shenzhou-11 spacecraft blasted off early in the morning from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi desert, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong will take two days to reach the Tiangong-2 space lab, or “Heavenly Palace-2”, which was launched in September.
They will remain on board for 30 days – the longest stay thus far by Chinese astronauts – to conduct tests on spacecraft-related technologies and scientific and engineering experiments.
Mr Jing, the mission commander, is on his third trip into orbit and will celebrate his 50th birthday in space.
“Although the job is challenging, risky and dangerous, there is nothing else I’d rather do,” he said, according to the China Daily.
China is pouring billions into its military-run space program and working to catch up with the US and Europe, with hopes to have a crewed outpost by 2022.
Beijing sees the program as symbolising the country’s progress and a marker of its rising global stature, but so far China has largely replicated activities that the US and Soviet Union pioneered decades ago.
Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory message to the mission yesterday, urging them to aim at taking great leaps for the Chinese nation, Xinhua said.
The mission should work to ensure “the Chinese people will take bigger steps and march further” in space, and contribute “to the building of China into a space power”, Xinhua cited him as saying.
The Tiangong-2 lab is in orbit 393 kilometres (244 miles) above Earth and has two cabins – a hermetically sealed experiment chamber that doubles as the living quarters, and a resources store holding supplies such as solar panels, engines and batteries.
The two astronauts on the
Shenzhou-11 (“Divine Vessel”) mission will test their own health in zero gravity, cultivate rice samples, and conduct research on cold atomic space clocks that use laser cooling technology to improve accuracy, among other projects, China Daily said.
“We prepared more than 100 kinds of food and beverages for them in space,” deputy director of China’s manned space engineering office Wu Ping told the paper, adding that the astronauts they had access to a treadmill and and exercise bike. –
Astronauts Jin Haipeng (left) and Chen Dong wave during a farewell ceremony before the launch of the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft at the Jiuguan Satellite Laung Centre in Jiuquan, Gansu province, China, yesterday.