China to launch manned spacecraft
The spacecraft will be launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi desert. (Representative image) Photograph: (Getty)
As China moves closer to realise its goal of setting up its own permanent space station by 2022, the country is all set to launch a manned space mission on Monday, state-owned Xinhua agency reported.
The Shenzhou-11 spacecraft will be carrying astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong and will take off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi desert, AFP quoted the agency saying. Shenzhou 11 will be the third space mission for Jing, who will command the mission and pass his 50th birthday in space.
In the month-long mission, the astronauts will dock on China's second experimental lab orbiting the earth to carry out testing systems and processes for to and refueling. They will also conduct experiments related to aerospace medicine, space physics and biology, atomic space cloaks and solar storm research.
"This mission is characterised by its longer duration and more tests," Chen Dong, the junior astronaut on the mission, told reporters in a televised news conference. "We will focus on improving our ability to handle emergencies in orbit, medical first aid, mutual rescue capabilities and space experiments."
The Shenzhou-11 spaceship will return to Earth within a day after docking the two astronauts on Tiangong-2 space lab and separating from it, Wu Ping, Deputy Director of China's manned space engineering office, was quoted as saying in media reports.
Wu Ping told reporters: "The astronaut flight group is in good condition, pre-launch preparations are basically ready," Reuters quoted him saying.
Jing, 50, will be commanding the mission and has been to space twice. The spacecraft, whose name translates as "Divine Vessel", will also carry three experiments designed by Hong Kong middle school students and selected in a science competition, including one that will take silk worms into space, Reuters reported.
China is investing billions into its space programme in order to reach the US and Europe's advanced space programmes. President Xi Jinping has called for China to establish itself as a space power, and it has tested anti-satellite missiles, in addition to its civilian aims, Reuters reported.
While Beijing says its space program is for peaceful purposes, the US Defense Department has highlighted its increasing capabilities, saying it was pursuing activities aimed to prevent adversaries from using space-based assets in a crisis.
(WION with inputs from agencies)