© Reuters. The Long March-2F Y12 rocket, carrying the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft and three astronauts, takes off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center for China’s first manned mission to build its space station, near Jiuquan, Gansu province, China on June 17, 2021. REUTER
By Carlos García and Shubing Wang
JIUQUAN, China (Reuters) – China on Thursday launched a spacecraft carrying three astronauts to part of a space station still under construction for the longest stay in low-Earth orbit by any Chinese citizen.
A Long March 2F rocket carrying Shenzhou-12, or “Divine Ship”, bound for the Tianhe space station module lifted off at 9:22 am Beijing time (0122 GMT) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwestern province of Gansu.
Shenzhou-12 is the third of 11 missions, four of which will be manned, needed to complete China’s first space station. Construction began in April with the launch of Tianhe, the first and largest of the three modules.
Astronauts Nie Haisheng, 56, Liu Boming, 54, and Tang Hongbo, 45, will work and stay at Tianhe, the home of the future space station, for three months.
During their stay at the cylinder-shaped Tianhe, slightly larger than a city bus, the three men will test the module’s technologies, including its life support system.
Men will also be monitored to see how they are doing in space physically and psychologically over an extended period of time. An upcoming mission to the space station will last six months.
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