In a move to set up its own permanent space station by 2022, China will launch a manned space mission on Monday to send two astronauts to dock on its second experimental lab orbiting the earth for a month-long stay. With this the communist giant moves closer to realise it goal of setting up its own permanent space station by 2022.
Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng, 50, and 37-year-old ChenDong will be blasted into space aboard Shenzhou-11 spacecraftat 7:30 am from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center near the Gobi Desert in northern China. The mission will be carried out with a Long March-2Fcarrier rocket, Wu Ping, Deputy Director of China's mannedspace engineering office said.
It will dock with orbiting space lab Tiangong-2 within two days and the astronauts will stay in the lab for 30 days, shewas quoted as saying by state-run Xinhua news agency. China, which conducted its first manned space mission in 2003, is putting in billions into its space programme in a bidto catch up with the US and Europe. It also plans to launchits maiden Mars mission in 2020 to match India and others. China has said its space program is for peaceful purposes,but it has also tested anti-satellite missiles in addition toits civilian aims. The Shenzhou-11 spaceship will return to Earth within aday after docking the two astronauts on Tiangong-2 space laband separating from it, according to Wu. Jing, who has been to space twice before for Shenzhou-7mission in 2008 and Shenzhou-9 mission in 2012, will commandthe mission to the space lab which was launched last month.
With a safe flight record of 1,500 hours as an air forcepilot, Chen became China's second group of astronauts in May2010, and was selected as a crew member of the Shenzhou-11mission in June 2016, Wu said. This will be his first spacemission. The space lab was launched as part China's efforts to setup its own manned space station by 2022, which will make itthe only the country to have such a facility in service as thecurrent in-service International Space Station (ISS) retiresby 2024.
Lei Fanpei, chairman of China Aerospace Science andTechnology Corp (CASC), recently said China plans to launchthe experimental core module of its space station around 2018with a Long March-5 heavy load carrier rocket, and the 20 toncombination space station will be sent into orbit around 2022. The space station has a designed life of 10 years in orbit400 km above the earth surface. With this space station, Chinawill become the second country after Russia to have developeda space station.
China made a three-step strategy in 1992 for its manned space program, the large-scale manned space station being the last step.