China launches manned mis­sion to ex­per­i­men­tal space sta­tion

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS -

BEI­JING >> China launched a pair of as­tro­nauts into space Mon­day on a mis­sion to dock with an ex­per­i­men­tal space sta­tion and re­main aboard for 30 days in prepa­ra­tion for the start of op­er­a­tions by a full-bore fa­cil­ity six years from now.

The Shen­zhou 11 mis­sion took off from the Ji­uquan Satel­lite Launch Cen­ter on the edge of the Gobi Desert in north­ern China at 7:30 a.m. aboard a Long March2F car­rier rocket.

It will dock with the Tian­gong 2 space sta­tion pre­cur­sor fa­cil­ity within two days, con­duct ex­per­i­ments in medicine and var­i­ous space-re­lated tech­nolo­gies, and test sys­tems and pro­cesses in prepa­ra­tion for the launch­ing of the sta­tion’s core mod­ule in 2018.

Space pro­gram com­man­der-in-chief Gen. Zhang Youxia de­clared the launch a suc­cess at 7:46 a.m. (2346 GMT). De­fense Min­is­ter Fan Chang­long then read a con­grat­u­la­tory mes­sage from Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping call­ing for China’s as­tro­nauts to ex­plore space “more deeply and more broadly.”

Premier Li Ke­qiang and pro­pa­ganda chief Liu Yun­shan vis­ited the Bei­jing con­trol cen­ter to con­grat­u­late staff. It is the sixth time China has launched as­tro­nauts into space and the du­ra­tion will be the long­est by far.

Fol­low­ing the at­tach­ment of two ex­per­i­ment mod­ules, the com­pleted sta­tion is set to be­gin full op­er­a­tions in 2022 and will run for at least a decade.

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

The Shen­zhou 11 as­tro­nauts are Jing Haipeng, who is fly­ing his third mis­sion, and 37-year-old Chen Dong.

“It is any astro­naut’s dream and pur­suit to be able to per­form many space mis­sions,” Jing, who turns 50 dur­ing his time in space, told a brief­ing Sun­day.

China con­ducted its first crewed space mis­sion in 2003, be­com­ing only the third coun­try after Rus­sia and the U.S. to do so, and has since staged a space­walk and landed its Yutu rover on the moon. Ad­min­is­tra­tors sug­gest a crewed land­ing on the moon may also be in the pro­gram’s fu­ture.

China was pre­vented from par­tic­i­pat­ing in the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion, mainly due to U.S. con­cerns over the Chi­nese space pro­gram’s strongly mil­i­tary char­ac­ter. Chi­nese of­fi­cials are now look­ing to in­ter­na­tion­al­ize their own pro­gram by of­fer­ing to help finance other coun­tries’ mis­sions to Tian­gong 2.

China’s space pro­gram also opened its mas­sive fourth space­craft launch site at Wen­chang on China’s south­ern­most is­land prov­ince of Hainan in June.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

China’s Shen­zhou 11 space­ship on­board a Long March-2F car­rier rocket takes off from the Ji­uquan Satel­lite Launch Cen­ter in north­west China’s Gansu prov­ince early Mon­day. China launched a pair of as­tro­nauts into space Mon­day on a mis­sion to dock with an ex­per­i­men­tal space sta­tion and re­main aboard for 30 days in prepa­ra­tion for the as­sem­bly of a full fa­cil­ity six years from now.

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