China launches first three-man crew to new space station

China launches first three-man crew to new space station

China launches first three-man crew to new space station

The spacecraft will dock with the core module about six and a half hours after launch, according to state media CCTV. Pictures showed them busy at work unpacking equipment.

"We are willing to carry out worldwide cooperation with any country that is committed to the peaceful use of outer space", Ji Qiming of the CMSA told reporters on Wednesday.

The Shenzhou-12 crew is to live on the Tianhe, which means "Harmony of the Heavens", a cylinder 16.6 m (55 ft) long and 4.2 m (14 ft) in diameter, for three months.

Nie Haisheng, a senior astronaut and commander of the Shenzhou XII mission crew, said on Wednesday that Tiangong will be a "home" for Chinese astronauts in space.

US legislation barring NASA from any cooperation with China means Chinese astronauts have not been to the more than two-decade-old International Space Station (ISS), visited by more than 240 men and women of various nationalities.

The launch represents a matter of huge prestige in China, as Beijing prepares to mark the 100th anniversary of the ruling Communist Party on July 1 with a massive propaganda campaign.

The astronauts, already wearing their spacesuits, were seen off by space officials, uniformed military personnel and children waving flowers and flags and singing patriotic songs.

The rocket dropped its boosters about two minutes into the flight followed by the cowling surrounding Shenzhou-12.

China's space ambitions have been fuelled in part by a USA ban on its astronauts on the International Space Station, a collaboration between the United States, Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan.

"So the astronauts can have a good rest in the space which should make them less exhausted", Gao said.

Other improvements include an increase in the number of automated and remote-controlled systems that should "significantly lessen the pressure on the astronauts", Gao said.

The mission will be China's longest crewed space mission to date and the first in almost five years, as Beijing pushes forward with its ambitious programme to establish itself as a space power. A fresh three-member crew and a cargo ship with supplies will be sent in three months.

The China Manned Space Agency and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs have jointly issued a statement inviting scientists from around the world to submit their research proposals for an opportunity to conduct their own experiments aboard the Chinese space station. That could compete and possibly conflict with the multinational Artemis Accords, a blueprint for space cooperation that supports NASA's plans to return humans to the moon by 2024 and to launch an historic human mission to Mars. China began construction of the station in April with the launch of Tianhe, the first and largest of three modules.

The trio launched on Thursday on a Long March-2F rocket for the Tiangong station, where they will spend three months.

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