China successfully launched a three-astronaut mission to its
space station on Thursday
, a new milestone in its sky exploration program.
The three members of the mission plan to stay at that base for three months, the longest time a Chinese astronaut has spent in space.
Chinese probe 'Tianwen-1' successfully lands on Mars
Shenzhou-12 (Divine Vessel) spacecraft took
off at 9.22 in Beijing (3.22 am in Madrid) from the satellite launch base in Jiuquan, in the province of Gansu (northwest China), carried by a
. "The flight went smoothly," said the deputy director of the Chinese manned space flight program, Chen Shanguang. "This has been the first step, but there will be many challenges ahead."
It is the third mission launched by Beijing since April to build its space station.
It then put
module into orbit
and sent a cargo ship last month.
The Chinese space authorities plan to complete another eight missions - of them, another three manned - before finishing the base.
The three astronauts will review life support systems, the mechanisms that allow survival in space
The three Chinese astronauts will stay in
. During their stay, Nie Haisheng, 56; Liu Boming, 54, and Yang Hongbo, 45, will check the operation of the module's systems, especially its life support system (recycling oxygen, water and other essential elements to sustain survival in space). "It's a great experience!" Commented the mission chief, Commander Nie, as
entered orbit. The spacecraft is expected to dock with the space station later that Thursday.
Although they will momentarily break the national record for stay in space, they will not, however, be the Chinese astronauts who spend the longest time in orbit: another subsequent mission plans to spend six months in the module, which has dimensions of 16.6 meters. long by 4.2 wide, little more than an average intercity bus.
The Chinese space station (CSS is its acronym in English, or
Tiangong, Heavenly Palace)
will have two other modules:
respectively), two laboratories that will be installed on each side of
In total, the T-shaped construction will weigh about 90 tons and will reach similar dimensions to the Russian MIR, although it will be four times smaller than the ISS.
It is designed to accommodate teams of three astronauts during prolonged stays, although up to six people may coincide inside it during relay times between crews.
The experts of the Chinese space agency (CSNA) foresee that its construction will be completed by the end of next year and that it may be operational for up to 15 years.
China, which does not participate in the ISS due to the veto of the American NASA, which its country's laws prohibit collaborating with Beijing, plans to use its space station to test key technologies in its ambitions to explore outer space and the resistance of materials in space.
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