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China launches mission to complete space station

BEIJING – China launched a new three-person mission on Sunday to complete assembly work on its permanent orbiting space station.

The Shenzhou 14 crew will spend six months at Tiangong Station, where they will oversee the addition of two laboratory modules to complement Tianhe’s main living quarters, launched in April 2021.

Their spacecraft lifted off at 10:44 am (0244 GMT) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on the edge of the Gobi Desert on the Human Space Program’s workhorse Long March 2F rocket. Fifteen minutes later, it entered low Earth orbit and opened its solar panels, drawing applause from ground controllers in Jiuquan and Beijing.

The launch was broadcast live on state television, indicating growing confidence in the space program’s capabilities, which has been hailed as a sign of China’s technological advancement and global influence.

Commander Chen Dong and fellow astronauts Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe will assemble the three-module structure connecting the existing Tianhe with Wentian and Mengtian, which is expected to arrive in July and October. Another cargo ship, the Tianzhou-3, remains docked at the station.

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The arrival of the new modules will offer “greater stability, more powerful functions and more complete equipment,” said Chen, 43, who was a member of the Shenzhou 11 Mission in 2016, at a news conference on Saturday.

Liu, 43, is also a space veteran and was China’s first female astronaut, reaching space aboard the Shenzhou 9 mission in 2012. Cai, 46, is making his first space journey.

China’s space program put its first astronaut into orbit in 2003, becoming the third country to do so alone, after the former Soviet Union and the United States

It has landed robotic rovers on the moon and placed one on Mars last year. China has also returned lunar samples and officials have discussed a possible manned mission to the moon.

China’s space program is being run by the ruling Communist Party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army, prompting the US to bar it from the International Space Station.

Chen, Liu and Cai will be joined by the crew of the upcoming Shenzhou 15 for three to five days at the end of their mission, marking the first time the station has had six people on board.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/world/2022/06/05/china-launches-mission-to-complete-space-station-assembly/ China launches mission to complete space station

Sarah Y. Kim

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