CM – Missile takes off and brings the first Chinese crew to the new space station


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June 17, 2021

by Ludovic Ehret

The first astronauts for China’s new space station started on Thursday for the country’s longest manned mission to date, a milestone in Beijing’s establishment as a space power.

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The trio launched a Long March 2F rocket for Tiangong broadcaster, where they will spend three months, in a highly anticipated launch broadcast live on state television.

The launch was at 9:22 am (0122 GMT) from the Jiuquan Launch Center in northwest China’s Gobi Desert, the rocket rising in clouds of smoke against a blue sky.

After about 10 minutes, it reached orbit and the spaceship separated from the rocket, to loud applause in the control room between rows of blue-clad engineers.

State broadcaster CCTV showed a live feed from inside the spacecraft, with the three astronauts raising their helmet visors and one smiling and waving at the camera.

Another let one Pen floating in weightlessness from his lap as he leafed through the flight manual.

« According to reports from the Beijing Aerospace Control Center, the Long March-2F rocket hit the manned Shenzhou-12 spacecraft on the v pre-set orbit, ”said Zhang Zhifen, director of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

At a pre-explosion ceremony, the three astronauts, who were already in their spacesuits, greeted a crowd of supporters and space workers who performed the patriotic song » Without the Communist Party of China if there were no new China « sang.

The mission’s commander is Nie Haisheng, an excellent air force pilot with the People’s Liberation Army who has already participated in two space missions.

Your Shenzhou-12 spacecraft will dock with the main Tianhe section of the space station, which was launched on April 29th, possibly six hours after launch.

The module has separate living quarters for each of them, a « space treadmill » and a bicycle to exercise, and a communications center for email and video calls with ground controls.

Huang Weifen of the China Manned Space Program said the astronauts will do two space walks during the mission, both roughly take six or seven hours.

The start is a matter of prestige in China as Beijing is preparing to mark the 100th anniversary of the ruling Communist Party on July 1st with a massive propaganda campaign.

Um To prepare for the mission, the crew has completed more than 6,000 hours of training, including hundreds of underwater flips in full space gear.

The Chinese space agency rde is planning a total of eleven launches by the end of next year, including three more manned missions that will deliver two laboratory modules to expand the 70-tonne station as well as supplies and crew members.

China’s space ambitions were fueled in part by a US ban on astronauts on the International Space Station, a collaboration between the United States, Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan.

It is slated to retire after 2024 although NASA said it could potentially remain functional beyond 2028.

Tiangong will be much smaller than the ISS and have a lifespan of at least 10 years.

China has said it is open to one international cooperation on its space station, although there are no precise details yet.

Zhou Jianping, chief designer of the space program, said: « One day foreign astronauts will surely board the Chinese space station. »

« There are a number of Countries that have expressed the wish, and we will be open to it in the future, « he said.

Beijing said in March it is also planning to build a separate lunar space station with Russia, and this W The two countries also issued a “roadmap” for potential opportunities for cooperation.

© 2021 AFP

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