China launched a spacecraft with three astronauts on Thursday, part of a space station still under construction, and this is the longest time a Chinese citizen has stayed in low-Earth orbit.
The Long March 2 F rocket carrying Shenzhou 12 or “Shenzhou” was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern Gansu Province at 9:22 am Beijing time (01:22 GMT).
Shenzhou 12 is the third of the 11 missions required to complete China’s first mature space station, four of which will be manned. In April, Tianhe started construction, which is the first and largest of the three modules.
Astronaut Nie Haisheng, 56 years old, Liu Boming, 54 years old, and Tang Hongbo, 45 years old, will work in Tianhe, the residential area of the future space station, for three months.
Since 2003, China has launched 6 manned missions and sent 11 astronauts into space, including Zhai Zhigang, who made China’s first spacewalk on the Shenzhou mission in 2008.