China Launches its Longest-ever Manned Space Mission

Published On:October 17, 2016, 4:43 pm

China has successfully launched the Shenzhou 11 aka “Heavenly Vessel” into orbit on Monday (7.30 p.m. ET). On board are two astronauts – Jing Haipen, 49, who has already travelled to space and back twice and a 37 years old Chen Dong. They took off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert, northern China.

This is considered as China’s longest-ever crewed space mission wherein the two on board will dock with the experimental Tiangong-2 space lab, which was launched last month and will remain in space for 33 days conducting various experiments pertaining to physics, medicines, and biology in the space lab.

China has designed this project specifically to develop its ability to research and explore space. Ever since October 2003, China has managed to complete a total of five manned space flight missions of which the last one took place in 2013 and that lasted for 15 days.

China’s critical and ultimate goals are the prototypes - Tiangong-2, and its precursor Tiangong-1 – a 20 ton permanent space station, which is predicted to be sent into orbit in 2022. As per a state news agency, Xinhua, China aspires to send its space station into orbit two years ahead of the retirement of the International Space Station (ISS) in 2024.

Joan Johnson-Freese, a lecturer at the Naval War College who specializes in space programs and space security said, "Tiangong is a precursor testbed of capabilities, building toward the large space station has always been the culminating goal of the Shenzhou program."

China’s first space lab, The Tiangong-1 is anticipated to fall into the Earth’s atmosphere by the end of 2017. In fact some experts have conjectured that China has lost complete control of the vessel. Nevertheless, Wu Ping a deputy director of the manned space engineering office downplayed the chances of any damage.

Furthermore, Wu Ping stated last month in a conference that, "Based on our calculation and analysis, most parts of the space lab will burn up during falling." She even went ahead and added that it was improbable to affect aviation activities and/or cause damage to the ground.

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