China Sends Three Astronauts to Its Space Station

China has launched three astronauts up to its new space station, its first crewed mission in almost five years.

    2021/06/18

NSFW    GOBI DESERT, CHINA — China has launched three astronauts up to its new space station from its Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, according to Space.com, its first crewed mission in almost five years.

The astronauts are aboard the Shenzhou-12 spaceship, which was propelled by a Long March-2F Y12 rocket, according to the Associated Press.

Space.com reports that Shenzhou-12's launch is the third of 11 required to build China's new space station, which it expects to complete before 2023.

Already in position are the Tianhe core module, which contains the astronauts' living quarters, and the robotic Tianzhou 2 cargo craft, which attached to the core module late last month. Shenzhou-12 will dock with the core module and the astronauts will then spend three months aboard.

Tianhe is the third set of living quarters China has sent up to space, after Tiangong 1 and Tiangong 2. However, it is much larger than those vessels, at 54 feet or 16.6 meters long, versus their 34 feet or 10.4 meters.

The core module contains three separate bedrooms and three times more interior space than its predecessors, Space.com reports, citing China's state-run press agency Xinhua.

Once they have docked, the three astronauts will set up testing and experiments and conduct a series of spacewalks, according to the Associated Press.

Two further lab modules, called Wentian and Mengtian, will complete the station when they are attached to either side of Tianhe next year, according to Space.com, leaving it about 15 percent of the size of the International Space Station.
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