China successfully launches longest manned space mission
Beijing, Oct 17: China today successfully launched a spacecraft carrying two astronauts, in its longest- ever manned space mission, who would later join its experimental space lab orbiting the Earth as the country moved a step closer to establish its permanent space station by 2022.
Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng, 50, and Chen Dong, 37, were blasted off into space by Shenzhou-11 (heavenly vessel) spacecraft at 7:30 am local time (5 am IST) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre near the Gobi Desert in northwest China.
The Shenzhou-11 was put into orbit by a Long March-2F carrier rocket after the launch, telecast live by the state-run China Central Television (CCTV).
The spacecraft will dock with orbiting space lab Tiangong-2 in two days and the astronauts will stay in the lab for 30 days, Wu Ping, Deputy Director of China’s manned space engineering office said.
While Jing is on his third spaceflight, this is Chen’s first space mission, which is the longest stay so far by Chinese astronauts, during which they will conduct tests on spacecraft-related technologies and scientific and engineering experiments.
The mission was declared a success by Zhang Youxia, commander-in-chief of China’s manned space programme, about 19 minutes after the blast-off, state-run Xinhua reported.
President Xi Jinping, who is currently in Goa to attend the BRICS Summit, congratulated everyone engaged in the mission for the successful launch, saying it is a milestone in China’s space programme.