China successfully launched its fifth manned spacecraft late Tuesday afternoon, sending three astronauts on the country’s longest space trip.
With 10 astronauts and six spacecraft launched into space in a decade, China is speeding up on the path of exploration and building a home for Chinese in the galaxy.
At a see-off ceremony held hours before the launch, Chinese President Xi Jinping extended good wishes to the three astronauts.
“The mission’s crew members carry a space dream of the Chinese nation, and represent the lofty aspirations of the Chinese people to explore space,” said Xi.
The President later watched the launch at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, and shook hands with staff at the center after the successful launch.
Unlike the space trip of Yang Liwei, China’s first astronaut who boarded the Shenzhou-5 spacecraft in 2003, of less than a day, the three astronauts will stay for half a month.
In its journey, Shenzhou-10 will dock with the orbiting space lab Tiangong-1 twice, once through automatic operation and the other manual, and a lecture will for the first time be given on board the assembled orbiter to a group of teenage students on the ground.
The three-member crew were all veteran Air Force pilots before being selected as astronauts. Nie is the first general visiting space while his teammate Wang Yaping is China’s first space traveler born in the 1980s, a generation growing up in era of reform and opening up.
All of them are members of the Communist Party of China.
Yang Liwei, the country’s first astronaut, once told Xinhua that Chinese astronauts might not pray like their foreign counterparts do before they set off on a space mission; however, Communism, as their shared faith, supports them.
“If the country has its own space station, Chinese astronauts, who are Party members, might set up a Party branch up there,” Yang said.