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China set to launch manned spaceflight mission Thursday

June 16, 2021


A Long March-2F carrier rocket, carrying the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft for China's first crewed mission to its new space station, scheduled for June 17, sits on the launch pad encased in a shield at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi desert in northwest China.
A Long March-2F carrier rocket, carrying the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft for China's first crewed mission to its new space station, scheduled for June 17, sits on the launch pad encased in a shield at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi desert in northwest China.

GUANGZHOU — The Shenzhou-12 manned spaceship will be launched at 9:22 a.m. Thursday (Beijing time) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi desert in northwest China, said Chinese National Space Agency on Wednesday.

Xinhua news agency quoted Ji Qimig, director assistant of the agency, as saying that the spaceship will take three astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo into space for the construction of China’s Space Station.

After entering orbit, the spaceship will conduct a fast-automated rendezvous and docking with the in-orbit space station core module Tianhe, forming a complex with the core module and the cargo craft Tianzhou-2.

The astronauts abroad Shenzhou-12 will be stationed in the core module and remain in orbit for three moths, it added.

The mission is China's first crewed spaceflight in nearly five years and a matter of prestige for the government as it prepares to mark the 100th birthday of the ruling Communist Party on July 1.

The space agency said the astronauts in China's first crewed mission to its new space station will have a choice of 120 different types of food and ‘space treadmills’ for exercise.

The mission will be China's longest crewed space mission to date and the first in nearly five years, as Beijing pushes forward with its ambitious program to establish itself as a space power.

The Long March-2F rocket that will get them there will lift off at 9:22 a.m. local time (0122 GMT) from the Jiuquan launch centre in northwest China's Gobi desert, the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) said Wednesday.

“Over the past decades, we have written several glorious chapters in China's space history and this mission embodies the expectations of the people and the party itself,” the mission's commander Nie Haisheng, told reporters at a press conference.

His team has undergone over 6,000 hours of training, including hundreds of underwater somersaults in full space gear, to get accustomed to their suits for spacewalks.

Nie was among the first batch of Chinese astronauts selected for training in 1998, and has already been on two space missions. He is a decorated air force pilot, and the others in his team are also members of the Chinese military.

Another 11 missions are planned over the next year and a half to complete the construction of Tiangong in orbit, including the attachment of solar panels and two laboratory modules.

The astronauts will be kept busy testing and maintaining the systems onboard, conducting spacewalks and undertaking scientific experiments.

China's desire for a human outpost of its own in Earth orbit was fueled by a US ban on its astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS).

The ISS — a collaboration between the US, Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan — is due for retirement after 2024, although NASA has said it could potentially remain functional beyond 2028.

Once completed, Tiangong will have a mass of about 90 tons and is expected to have at least a 10-year lifespan, according to the Chinese space agency. It will be much smaller than the ISS, and similar to the Soviet space station Mir, which was launched in 1986 and decommissioned in 2001. — Agencies


June 16, 2021
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