China successfully sent the first team of astronauts to its self-developed space station on Thursday, several years after being banned from the International Space Station (ISS). The country has been working to become dominant worldwide in space exploration.
On top of a Long March 2F rocket, the world's second-largest economy launched three astronauts Liu Boming, Tang Hongbo, and Nie Haisheng into space on a Shenzhou-12 spacecraft approximately at 9:22 a.m. The first crew is en route to the Tianhe module of China's space station.
The launch of first Chinese crew was a 'complete success'
Per CNBC, the Chinese government built the space station into orbit at the end of April. The spacecraft took off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, in China's northwest.
The mission is a complete success at about 9:43 local time, said Zhang Zhifen, Director of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. This is China's first time since 2016 to send a strong mission around and will be an important source of pride as Beijing embarks on the 100th founding anniversary of the Communist party.
Beijing has given high importance to fusion research, with China trying to rival the US in a variety of technological sectors. By 2022, China aims to have a fully functioning, self-developed three-module space station.
In April, one of the modules of the "Tianhe" Space Station was launched, the quarters of the astronauts. And China dispatched a cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-2 last month to dock with Tianhe. This spaceship carries supplies such as food for the crew.
This year and next, China will carry out eleven missions, including four manned missions, to build the space station. The three astronauts spend three months in the space station, testing and doing spacewalks to check all necessary technologies to build and operate the space station, like life support mechanisms and in-orbit service.
China has been banned from the space station since 2011
The ISS has banned China since 2011 when the US Congress passed legislation restricting American contact with the Chinese space program over national threats. In 2013, three Chinese astronauts flew the Shenzhou 10 mission, according to an interview.
China urged cooperation with other nations in space, especially the United States, said the country's most experienced astronaut at the time. Nie Haisheng, the Shenzhou 10 commander, said, "As an astronaut, I have a strong desire to fly with astronauts from other countries," TIMES reported.
According to CNET, Tiangong-1, China's space station was launched that same year. The station operated for only four years before its service halted. In early 2016, the country's space program was reported to have lost control and came crashing down, landing in the Pacific Ocean, two years later.
Then Tiangong-2 was launched, which is a follow-up station and deorbited in 2019. Both space programs provided a new Chinese space station named Tiangong.
The new station can move up and down in orbit as needed, orbiting at about 230 miles above the Earth, roughly 20 miles lower than the ISS. The world was fascinated by the spent rocket booster, which was used to lift Tianhe into orbit, and its descent back to Earth after the launch of the Tianhe core module in April.
Its deorbit was uncontrolled, sparking fears that it may re-enter the planet and fall onto a populated area. Fortunately, there are many unpopulated places on Earth, and the rocket landed in the Indian Ocean, not far from the Maldives.
Although the Long March 2F rocket differs somewhat from the Long March 5B used in that launch, there have been concerns about China's deorbiting tactics. How China was prepared for Shenzhou 12's rocket to fall to Earth was one of the first questions journalists at the conference press Qiming on.