Tomorrow, at 7:30 a.m., China launches a spacecraft from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, near the Gobi Desert, in northern China’s Inner Mongolia. Aboard the spacecraft will be two astronauts: Jing Haipeng, who is 49 years old, and Chen Dong, who is 37-years-old.
The spacecraft, named the Shenzhou 11, will be launched on a Long March-2F carrier rocket. In two days, the spacecraft will reach Tiangong 2 space laboratory, where the astronauts will reside for 30 days. This will be China’s longest manned mission to date.
The astronauts will run tests focusing on response to space emergencies, and overall survival capabilities in space. This will mark Jing Haipeng’s third space mission. The astronaut will also be celebrating his 50th birthday in space.
The first Chinese manned space mission took place in 2003. Then, China became the third nation to successfully undergo this type of mission, after Russia and the USA. It will be the sixth time that China launches a spacecraft with men on board.
The mission will undergo as part of the preparations for China’s goal of putting their own space station in orbit, by the year 2022. When the US-led International Space Station retires in 2024, China could become the only nation with an active space station.
Current laws in the United States forbid collaborations between American and Chinese astronauts, for military security reasons. Although China states that its space missions are peaceful, it had previously tested anti-satellite missiles in 2007.
The Chinese space program is as ambitious as ever, with president Xi Jinping wishing for his nation to become a space power. China plans to land on the Moon by 2024, in order to explore its dark side and to start preparing for the satellite’s colonization. It is also planning to send a probe to Mars as soon as 2020, putting it in direct competition with the United States and Europe.
In July, China has finished building the largest radio-telescope in the world, having a width of more than 1,600 feet. The structure cost around $180 million to make and is said to be able to receive signals from a distance of 13.7 billion light-years. If there are extraterrestrials out there, then China might be the first Earth nation to find them.
Image source: Wikipedia