China launches spaceship carrying 3 astronauts to space station
Written by tokyoclub on June 17, 2021
China launched a spaceship Thursday morning carrying three astronauts to the country’s first space station under construction, state-run media reported, as President Xi Jinping has pledged to make the Asian nation a space power.
It will be the first manned mission during the space station’s construction, with the three astronauts belonging to the People’s Liberation Army slated to remain in orbit for three months while they work on spacewalks and other activities.
The manned Shenzhou-12 spacecraft from China’s Manned Space Agency onboard the Long March-2F rocket launches at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on June 17, 2021 in Jiuquan, Gansu province, China. (Getty/Kyodo)
About 30 minutes after the lift-off, China declared the successful launch of the Shenzhou-12 spaceship.
The latest mission is China’s first manned space flight in around five years. Beijing plans to continue sending modules to complete the construction of the space station by the end of 2022 as it looks to develop new materials and promote the study of bioscience.
The Long March-2F rocket with the Shenzhou-12 spaceship atop blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China’s northwest province of Gansu at 9:22 a.m., Beijing time, with three astronauts, Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo, on board.
The three are likely to set a new record for a manned space mission by a Chinese crew, exceeding the 33 days by the Shenzhou-11 crew in 2016, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
In April, China launched the core module for the space station. Xi has been apparently aiming to boost national prestige by successfully transporting the astronauts to it ahead of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Communist Party in July.
As the Communist-led government has been steadily moving forward with space development projects in recent years, expectations are growing that competition between China and the United States will intensify in the field.
Late last year, an unmanned Chinese space probe returned to Earth with the first lunar soil samples in 44 years as China became the third country to bring back material from the Moon after the United States and Russia.
Also, last month, China started probing the surface of Mars, becoming the second nation to undertake a mission on the red planet after the United States.
China launched its first manned spacecraft in 2003, making it the third country to put a man in space after the United States and the Soviet Union.
Meanwhile, the International Space Station, operated by the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada and the European Space Agency, is set to conclude its mission in 2024.