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China Launches Longest Manned Space Mission

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BEIJING – China is ready for its longest-ever manned space mission with a
spacecraft carrying two astronauts set to lift off on Monday to dock with an
experimental lab for a month-long stay.

The Press Trust of India (PTI) reports that this project is under China’s
ambitious plans to establish its own permanent space station by 2022.

Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng, 50, and 37-year-old Chen Dong will be
transported into space aboard ‘Shenzhou-11’ (heavenly vessel) spacecraft at 7.30
am (5am IST) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center near the Gobi Desert in
northern China.

The mission will be carried out with a Long March-2F carrier rocket, Wu
Ping, Deputy Director of China’s manned space engineering office said.

It will dock with orbiting space lab Tiangong-2 within two days and the
astronauts will stay in the lab for 30 days.

Hours before the lift-off, the two astronauts appeared in good spirits
and answered several questions.

“Although the job is challenging, risky and dangerous, there is nothing more
I would rather do,” Jing, who is commander of this mission, told reporters.

It will be Jing’s third spaceflight following his Shenzhou-7 mission in
September 2008 and Shenzhou-9 mission in March 2012.
“I will treasure every moment in space and ensure I record my experience in
my diary and enjoy the out-of-this-world scenery,” Chen said.

China, which conducted its first manned space mission in 2003 that lasted
15 days, is putting in billions into its space programme in a bid to catch up
with the US and Europe.

It also plans to launch its maiden Mars mission in 2020 to match India and
others.

China has said its space program is for peaceful purposes, but it has also
tested anti-satellite missiles in addition to its civilian aims.

The Shenzhou-11 spaceship will return to Earth within a day after docking
the two astronauts on Tiangong-2 space lab and separating from it, according to
Wu.
–BERNAMA

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