China launches first crew to new space station

China launches first crew to new space station
The Shenzhou-12 capsule successfully took off atop its Long March 2F rocket. Source: Getty Images
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Daily US Times: China has launched three astronauts to its new space station. The three men – Liu Boming, Nie Haisheng and Tang Hongbo – are to spend three months aboard the Tianhe module some 380km above the Earth.

It will be the country’s longest crewed space mission to date and the first in nearly five years.

On Thursday, China’s Shenzhou-12 capsule successfully took off atop its Long March 2F rocket.

Lift-off from the Jiuquan satellite launch centre in the Gobi desert was at 09:22 Beijing time.

The launch and subsequent mission are another demonstration of China’s growing capability and confidence in the space domain.

In the past six months, China has returned soil and rock samples to Earth from the surface of the Moon, and landed a six-wheeled robot on Mars – both highly complex and challenging endeavours.

The primary objective for Commander Nie Haishen and his crew on the Shenzhou-12 mission is to bring the 22.5-tonne Tianhe module into service.

Ahead of the launch, Mr Nie said: “I have a lot of expectations.”

He said: “We need to set up our new home in space and test a series of new technologies. So, the mission is tough and challenging. I believe with the three of us working closely together, doing thorough and accurate operations, we can overcome our challenges. We have the confidence to complete the mission.”

This 16.6m-long, 4.2m-wide Tianhe cylinder was launched in April.

It is the first and core component in what will eventually be a near 70-tonne orbiting space station, which includes science labs, comprising living quarters and even a Hubble-class telescope to view the cosmos.

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