China launches manned space mission aboard Shenzhou-11
China has launched two of its astronauts, Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong, into space onboard a Shenzhou-11 spacecraft.
Launched from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northern China, the mission is designed to enhance China’s capability to send future manned missions to the Moon or Mars.
Lifted off by a Long March-2F rocket, the spacecraft is set to dock with the orbiting Tiangong 2 space laboratory in two days' time.
The BBC reported that China discontinued Tiangong 2’s predecessor, Tiangong 1 space station, earlier this year.
During their month-long stay in Tiangong 2, the astronauts will conduct various experiments, which involve a plant growing test in space and ultrasound tests on their own bodies.
A day before the launch, China’s manned space engineering office deputy director Wu Ping said after docking with Tiangong 2, Shenzhou-11 would return to Earth within one day, reported Xinhua.
The latest launch has made China the third country to conduct its own manned missions after Russia and the US. China is also planning to launch around 20 space missions this year.
When fully operational, Tiangong 2 is expected to help to realise the country’s goal of establishing its own space station by 2022.