China launched a spacecraft Thursday carrying three astronauts on a part of a spacecraft still under construction for the longest stay in low Earth orbit by any Chinese citizen.
A Long 2F missile carrying the Shenzhou-12, or “Divine Vessel”, destined for the Tianhe space station module is fired at 9:22 a.m. Beijing time (1:22 GMT) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest of Gansu province.
Shenzhou-12 is the third of 11 missions – four of which will be equipped – needed to complete China’s first full-space space station. Construction began in April with the launch of Tianhe, the first and largest of the three modules.
Astronauts Nie Haisheng, 56, Liu Boming, 54, and Tang Hongbo, 45, will work and stay in Tianhe, the future space station district, for three months.
Since 2003, China has launched six manned missions and sent 11 astronauts into space, including Zhai Zhigang, who completed China’s first spaceflight on the 2008 Shenzhou mission.