Chinese Crewed Spacecraft, Tianhe Successfully Docks Off: Officials Report

Story Highlights
  • Spacecraft named Shenzhou-12 ferry’s three astronauts
  • Astronauts during sojourn to test the module technologies including its life-support system
  • Tianhe, the first and largest of three modules being constructed by China

World: Chinese Spacecraft, Shenzhou-12 carrying three astronauts successfully docked off with the country’s new  space station, Tianhe on Thursday afternoon. 

The State Space agency announced the take-off seven hours after the spacecraft left its port.  A Long March 2F rocket transporting the Shenzhou-12, or “Divine Vessel”, bound for the space station module Tianhe blasted off at 9:22 a.m. Beijing time (0122 GMT) from the JiuQuan Satellite Launch Centre in north-western Gansu province, reported officials.

 Shenzhou-12 is the third of 11 missions , four of which will be crewed needed to complete China’s first full-fledged space station. Tianhe, the first and largest of three modules being constructed by China.

 The astronauts Nie Haisheng, 56, Liu Boming, 54, and Tang Hongbo, 45, are to work and stay on Tianhe, the living quarters of the future space station, for three months. The crew will carry out experiments, test equipment, conduct maintenance and prepare the station for receiving two laboratory modules next year.  “This will be the first crewed flight in the space station (construction) phase, and I’m lucky to be able to have the ‘first baton’,” Nie told reporters in Jiu Quan a day before the launch. 

Since 2003, China has sent over 11 astronauts into space, including Zhai Zhigang, who carried out China’s first spacewalk ever on the 2008 Shenzhou mission.

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