China has successfully launched the Shenzhou-12 – its first manned mission in five years – further accelerating its space programme to rival the United States.
- The Shenzhou-12 craft “successfully docked with the forward port of the core module” of the Tiangong station, according to a statement from the China Manned Space Agency.
- China is the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to carry out a manned mission on its own.
- It will be China’s longest crewed space mission to date and the first in nearly five years.
- The launch was carried with a Long March-2F carrier rocket.
- The spacecraft carried three male astronauts – Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo.
- They will carry out tasks such as the mechanical arm operation and extravehicular activities, and verify a series of key technologies such as long-term residence in space, recycling of resources and life support of astronauts.
- The Shenzhou-12 is made up of three sections – an orbiter module, a return module and a propelling module, and has 14 sub-systems onboard.
- It is Liu’s second mission to space, his first being the Shenzhou-7 mission in 2008, which featured a landmark spacewalk. It is Tang’s first journey into space.
- In May, China became the second country to put a rover on Mars, two years after landing the first spacecraft on the far side of the moon.
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