First astronauts en route for China’s Tiangong space station | DW News

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  • DW News published this video item, entitled “First astronauts en route for China’s Tiangong space station | DW News” – below is their description.

    The first astronauts for China’s new space station have blasted off for the country’s longest crewed mission. The Long March-2F rocket carrying three astronauts lifted off on Thursday at 9:22 a.m. local time (0122 UTC) from the Jiuquan launch center in the Gobi desert of northwestern China.

    Shenzhou-12 is the third of 11 missions — four of which will be crewed — needed to complete China’s first space station. The astronauts, wearing their spacesuits, were seen off by the commander of China’s manned space program and other military personnel. The three also waved to the crowd before heading to the Jiuquan launch center.

    Construction on the Tiangong space station in low-Earth orbit began in April with the launch of Tianhe, the first and largest of three modules. Nie Haisheng, 56, Liu Boming, 54, and Tang Hongbo, 45, are set to stay for three months in Tianhe’s main living quarters and will carry out experiments, conduct maintenance and prepare the station for two more modules scheduled to launch 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 a day before the launch.

    The T-shaped space station’s three modules weigh about 66 metric tons, compared with the International Space Station at about 420 tons. It could, however, be expanded to as many as six modules. This mission brings the number of Chinese astronauts who traveled to space to 14. China had launched its first crew mission in 2003, becoming only the third country after Russia, and the former Soviet Union, and the United States to do so.

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