China sends three astronauts to new space station
(Photo by ARUN SANKAR/AFP via Getty Images).
CHINA has sent three astronauts into space on Thursday (17), taking one step closer to complete its new space station.
The three astronauts – Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo – will spend three months aboard the Tianhe module some 380km above the Earth.
Their Shenzhou-12 capsule took off atop its Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan satellite launch centre in the Gobi Desert Thursday (17).
The event will mark China’s longest crewed space mission to date and the first in nearly five years.
The Shenzhou-12 mission is seen as another demonstration of China’s growing confidence and capability in the space domain.
The key objective of this mission is to bring the 22.5-tonne Tianhe module into service.
“I have a lot of expectations,” astronaut Nie said ahead of the launch.
“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,” he added.
The Tianhe cylinder, which is 16.6m-long and 4.2m-wide was launched in April.
It is the core component that will eventually have an orbiting outpost, comprising living quarters, science labs and even a Hubble-class telescope to view the cosmos.
China will launch various elements over the next couple of years, and construction will be carried out by regular cargo deliveries and crew expeditions.
In the past six months, the country brought rock and soil samples to Earth from the surface of the Moon, and landed a six-wheeled robot on Mars – both highly complex and challenging endeavours.
In 2019, China became the first country to send an un-crewed rover to the far side of the Moon.
The country has invested heavily in its space efforts as it had to develop a space station on its own after being excluded from the International Space Station project.
The US, which leads that partnership (with Russia, Europe, Canada and Japan) will not co-operate with the Asian nation in orbit.
Meanwhile, China said it is open to foreign involvement on its station.