China launches three astronauts to its Tiangong space station

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China has successfully launched a rocket carrying three astronauts. The three are on their way to the Tianhe module for the Chinese space station Tiangong under construction. They stay in the module for three months.

The three were launched on Thursday with a Long March 2F rocket aboard a Shenzhou-12 module, from a launch pad in Jiuquan in the Gobi Desert. Xinhua shows images of the launch. The astronauts will spend three months in the 16.6-metre-long Tianhe module, which is orbiting the Earth at an altitude of 380 kilometers.

There they will carry out maintenance work in the run-up to the construction of the Tiangong space station. Tianhe is the main module for that space station, which will consist of three modules. Tianhe was launched at the end of April. China aims to have construction completed by the end of 2022. A total of eleven missions are planned for construction, three of which have now been launched.

It is the first manned space mission in almost five years for China, which has great ambitions in the space sector. For example, in the past six months, the country has put a robotic vehicle on Mars and picked up debris from the lunar surface.

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