September 28, 2022

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Chinese astronauts blast off to space station as construction enters high gear

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BEIJING — China sent three astronauts on Sunday on a six-month long mission to oversee a pivotal period of construction of its space station, whose final modules are due to be launched in the coming months.

The space station, when completed by the year-end, will lay a significant milestone in China’s three-decades long manned space program, first approved in 1992 and initially code-named “Project 921.” It will also flag the start of permanent Chinese habitation in space.

The completion of the structure, about a fifth of the International Space Station (ISS) by mass, is a source of pride among ordinary Chinese people, and caps President Xi Jinping’s 10 years as leader of the ruling Communist Party.

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A Long March-2F rocket, which was used to launch China’s first crewed spaceflight on the Shenzhou-5 mission in 2003, lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert in northwest China at 10:44 a.m. (0244 GMT) with the spacecraft Shenzhou-14, or “Divine Vessel,” and its three astronauts, a live broadcast by state television showed.

“I watched the launch of Shenzhou-5 when I was a primary student, and now we have Shenzhou-14,” Zanna Zhang, a social media developer, told Reuters.

“Of course I’m super excited, and I’m so proud as a Chinese. We’re one step closer to becoming a space superpower,” the 25-year-old said.

Construction began in April last year with the launch of the first and largest of its three modules – Tianhe – the living quarters of visiting astronauts. The lab modules Wentian and Mengtian are to be launched in July…

Reuters

2022-06-05 01:18:24

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