Beijing: China will launch a manned space mission today to send two astronauts to dock on its second experimental lab orbiting the earth for a month-long stay, as the communist giant moves closer to realise it goal of setting up its own permanent space station by 2022.
Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng (50) and 37-year-old Chen Dong will be blasted into space aboard Shenzhou-11 spacecraft at 7.30 am (5 am IST) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center near the Gobi Desert in northern China.
The mission will be carried out with a Long March-2F carrier rocket, Wu Ping, Deputy Director of China’s manned space engineering office, said. It will dock with orbiting space lab Tiangong-2 within two days and the astronauts will stay in the lab for 30 days, she was quoted as saying by state-run Xinhua news agency.
China is putting in billions into its space programme in a bid to catch up with the US and Europe. It also plans to launch its maiden Mars mission in 2020.
China has said its space programme is for peaceful purposes, but it has also tested anti-satellite missiles in addition to its civilian aims.
The Shenzhou-11 spaceship will return in a day after docking the two on Tiangong-2 space lab and separating from it, said Wu.
Number of days China’s first manned space mission in 2003 lasted