Three Chinese astronauts lifted off to oversee Space Station workstext_fields
Heading towards laying a milestone in its space programme, China on Sunday sent three astronauts to oversee the construction of its space station, which is nearing completion by the year-end, according to Reuters.
A live broadcast by the state television reportedly showed the rocket A Long March-2F climbing skies from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert in northwest China at 10:44 a.m. with the spacecraft Shenzhou-14, or "Divine Vessel", and its three astronauts on board.
The Space station, first approved in 1992 with a code name "Project 921", is about fifth of the International Space Station (ISS) by mass.
Just as its completion nears, the space station has already become a source pride for Chinese, as well as being a landmark in President Xi Jinping's decade long stint in power.
With the launch of two of its three modules, the construction started off in last April for the living quarters of visiting astronauts. Next up is the lab modules Wentian and Mengtian to be launched in July and October.
Astronauts Chen Dong, 43, who is Shenzhou-14 mission commander and his team mates Liu Yang, 43, and Cai Xuzhe, 46 will stay and work on the space station for 180 days.
The T-shaped station can operate 25 micro labs cabinets to conduct experiments. Wentian can support life science research while Mengtian is for microgravity experiments, according to the report.
Compared to seven on ISS, China's station could accommodate only three; however China has invited foreign astronauts to team up with them.