China launches mission to complete space station


China on Sunday launched a new three-man mission to complete assembly work on its space station orbiting its permanent orbit.

The Shenzhou 14 crew will spend six months aboard the Tiangong station, during which time they will oversee the addition of two laboratory modules to join the main galaxy living space that was launched in April 2018. 2021.

Their spacecraft blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at the edge of the Gobi Desert at 10:44 a.m. (0244 GMT) atop the crew’s Long March 2F rocket. Fifteen minutes later, it reached low Earth orbit and opened its solar panels, drawing applause from ground controllers in Jiuquan and Beijing.

The launch, broadcast live on state television, showed a growing level of confidence in the capabilities of the space program, which is seen as a sign of China’s technological progress and global influence. Country.

Commander Chen Dong and cosmonauts Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe will assemble the three-module structure joining the existing Tianhe with Wentian and Mengtian, which is expected to arrive in July and October. Another cargo, the Tianzhou-3, still docked with the station.

The arrival of the new modules will “provide more stability, more powerful functionality, more complete equipment,” said Chen, 43, who was a member of the Shenzhou 11 mission in 2016. , said in a press conference on Saturday.

Liu, 43, is also a space veteran and China’s first female astronaut in space on the Shenzhou 9 mission in 2012. Cai, 46, is on a spacewalk his first.

China’s space program launched its first astronaut into orbit in 2003, making it only the third country to do so on its own after the former Soviet Union and the United States.

It landed robots on the moon and placed one on Mars last year. China has also returned lunar samples, and officials have discussed a possible crewed mission to the moon.

China’s space program is run by the ruling Communist Party’s military force, the People’s Liberation Army, prompting the US to remove it from the International Space Station.

Chen, Liu and Cai will be joined at the end of their three- to five-day mission by the crew of the upcoming Shenzhou 15, marking the first time the station has had six on board.

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