China's first astronauts for its new space station blasted off on Thursday, June 17. It is the longest crewed mission to date.
The Long March-2F rocket lifted off at 9:22 am local time (0122 GMT) in a cloud of smoke from the Jiuquan launch centre in northwest China's Gobi desert. It was carrying three astronauts.
It was considered as a 'landmark' step in establishing Beijing as a major space power. The first crewed mission to China's new space station. The Shenzhou-12 spacecraft will berth with the Tianhe main section of the space station, which was placed in orbit on April 29.
Interesting part is that it has separate living spaces for each of them. It includes a treadmill for exercise and a communication centre for emails and video calls with ground control.
China also planned another 11 missions to complete the construction of Tiangong in orbit. It is to maintain the systems on board, conduct spacewalks, and undertake scientific experiments. To prepare for the mission, the crew has undergone more than 6,000 hours of training. This included hundreds of underwater somersaults in full space gear.
The mission includes Commander Nie Haisheng, who is an air force pilot in the People's Liberation Army and already has experience in two space missions. The two other members are also members of the military.