China’s Long March 5B Y2 rocket with the core module of the Chinese space station Tianhe launches on Jan.
VCG | Visual China Group | Getty Images
GUANGZHOU, China – China will send the first astronauts to its self-developed space station on Thursday.
The Shenzhou-12 spacecraft with three astronauts will be launched on a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 9:22 a.m. local time on Thursday.
It is China’s first manned space mission since 2016 and for the first time astronauts will visit the country’s new space station, which is still under development.
In April, China launched one of the three main modules that will make up the space station. It is called “Tianhe” and will be the home of the astronauts. And last month, China sent the Tianzhou-2 cargo space probe to dock with Tianhe. This spaceship contains supplies such as food for the astronauts.
China will conduct 11 missions this year and will be the next to complete the construction of the space station, including four manned missions. The space station is scheduled to go into operation in 2022.
The three astronauts who will fly into space on Thursday are Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo. Liu and Nie are veterans, while Tang will make his first flight into space. You will spend three months on the space station.
During the mission, the astronauts will test the technologies required to build and operate the space station, such as life support mechanisms and maintenance in orbit.
Astronauts have a separate living and working area as well as their own sleeping area.
China’s first self-developed space station appears to compete with the International Space Station ISS, which is a cooperation between the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada. China is not involved.
And the first manned mission in nearly five years underscores China’s broader ambitions in the space industry.
Last year, China completed the Beidou satellite system, its competitor to the US government’s Global Positioning System (GPS). And earlier this year, China landed its first unmanned spacecraft on Mars.