China to launch Shenzhou-12 manned spaceship on June 17

Marco Green
June 17, 2021

This is being considered as a "landmark" step in establishing Beijing as a major space power.

China will send three men into orbit on Thursday in its first crewed mission in almost five years, part of an ambitious plan to complete a space station by the end of next year.

Among the tasks in store for the Shenzhou-12 crew will be carrying out in-orbit tests of the Tianhe module, verifying the recycling and life support systems, testing a robotic arm and managing materials and waste.

Then they will carry out space science experiments and technology experiments, as well as public outreach activities.

While China concedes it arrived late at the space station game, it says its facility is cutting-edge.

On Liu's Shenzhou-7 mission in 2008, his first, he nearly did not get to perform a space walk to plant the Chinese flag on the exterior of the spacecraft.

Once completed, the station will allow for stays of up to six months, similar to the much larger International Space Station.

The mission brings to 14 the number of astronauts China has launched into space since its first crewed mission in 2003, becoming only the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to do so on its own.

US legislation barring NASA from any cooperation with China means Chinese astronauts have not been to the more than two-decade-old International Space Station (ISS), visited by more than 240 men and women of various nationalities.

"We are willing to carry out global cooperation and exchanges with all countries and regions worldwide that are committed to the peaceful use of outer space", Ji said, adding that existing cooperation is being expanded with countries including Russia, Italy and Germany along with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. While China espouses the peaceful development of space on the basis of equality and mutual respect, many recall that China in January 2007 sent a ballistic missile into space to destroy an inactive weather satellite, creating a debris field that continues to be a threat.

Chinese astronauts have had a comparatively low global profile. Nie will command the mission and make his third journey into space.

After climbing aboard the Tianhe module, the astronauts will spend three months living and working there, outstripping the previous 33-day record for a Chinese crewed mission held by the astronauts of the Shenzhou-11 mission in 2016.

It will be Liu's second mission to space and Tang's first.

Future missions to the station will include women, according to officials, with stays extended to as long as six months and as many as six astronauts on the station at a time during crew changeovers. It also landed a probe on Mars last month that carried a rover, the Zhurong, and earlier landed a probe and rover on the moon and brought back the first lunar samples by any country's space program since the 1970s.

Earlier, China landed a probe and rover on the moon's less explored far side, joining the Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, rover that was part of an earlier lunar exploration mission.

China and Russian Federation this week also unveiled an ambitious plan for a joint International Lunar Research Station running through 2036.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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