China today launched the Shenzhou 12 manned spacecraft, which is expected to send three astronauts to the core unit of the Tianhe Space Station for a three-month mission.
Xinhua quoted the China Manned Space Agency as saying: It is the seventh Chinese manned mission into space and the first mission during the construction of the Chinese space station.
The vehicle was launched aboard a Long March 2F carrier rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert in northwest China. After entering orbit, the spacecraft will dock with the basic unit of the space station in orbit to form a complex with Tianhe and the Tianzhou 2 cargo vehicle. The astronauts will be stationed in the basic unit. .
The participating astronauts are expected to set a new record for the duration of a manned space mission to China, exceeding the 33-day duration set by the Shenzhou 11 crew in 2016.
Agency director Hao Chun said their work would be more complex and challenging compared to previous manned space missions, while agency assistant director Ji Zhiming said the Shenzhou 12 crew members would operate and manage the complex, including in-orbit testing of the Tianhe module, verification of the recycling and life support system, testing and commissioning of the complex. The robotic arm, as well as materials and waste management, will transport, assemble and test EVA spacesuits and conduct two EVA activities.