China Launches Longest Manned Mission to Tiangong-2 -- Permanent Space Station Soon a Reality?
China is serious about becoming the next space giant. The Chinese Space Agency recently launched a manned spacecraft bound for its experimental space lab module Tiangong-2.
Two astronauts aboard the manned spacecraft will remain in space for a total of 30 days. This crewed mission is in preparation for China's new space station that will be operational in the next few years.
Two astronauts were sent to space aboard the Shenzhou 11 on a Long March-2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Northern China just outside the Gobi Desert.
It is expected to rendezvous with China's Tiangong-2. Tiangong-2 is the second space lab module sent to space by China. Its predecessor, Tiangong-1, malfunctioned and is now spiraling back to Earth. Tiangong-2 is a key component of China's new space station that will be operational in the next few years with the potential of being the only working space station outside the Earth when the International Space Station (ISS) retires in 2024.
"Launching Tiangong 2 is a key battle in comprehensively completing the space laboratory stage mission, and will establish a firm foundation for our country's continued space station construction and operation," Wu Ping, mission spokesperson said in a statement.
The astronauts are tasked to conduct experiments while on board the Tiangong-2 including medicine related and space technology. But their main mission is to prepare for the 2018 launch of the main core module of China's space station. The space station will be sent to space module by module and will then converge to become one functioning space station.
Authorities proclaimed that the launch was a success. Other high-ranking officials also expressed their congratulatory messages to the control center after the lift off was declared a success. China is the third country to send humans to space that also performed spacewalk next to the U.S. and Russia. The Chinese space agency has also succeeded in landing a lunar probe on the moon.
The astronauts aboard the rocket are also thrilled to have part of this milestone. "It is any astronaut's dream and pursuit to be able to perform many space missions," astronaut Jing Haipeng said in an interview.