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The successful launch of the first Chinese manned flight to the "Heavenly Palace" station that Beijing is building in space

The successful launch of the first Chinese manned flight to the “Heavenly Palace” station that Beijing is building in space

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Three Chinese astronauts took off Thursday for the first manned flight towards the “Heavenly Palace” station that Beijing is building in front of the International Space Station, in a step that is of great importance in its ambitious program to establish its position as a global space power.

take off three Chinese astronauts Thursday aboard a Long March-2F rocket in the first manned flight towards the “Heavenly Palace”, a space station that Beijing is building in front of the International Space Station, which brings together the United States, Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan.

“Long March-2F” took off on time from a platform at Jiuquan Cosmodrome in the Gobi Desert (northwest China) before entering orbit ten minutes later.

State television broadcast scenes of smiling astronauts, raising their face coverings, when they reached orbit. “The solar panels opened in a natural way, and we can say that the launch was successful,” said Zhang Xifen, director of the launch center.

And this is the first manned flight to china For nearly five years, astronauts are expected to stay three months in orbit, a record period for an Asian giant.

The success of this mission is of great importance to Beijing, which is preparing to celebrate on July 1, the centenary of the founding of the Communist Party of China.

The Shenzhou-12 spacecraft is supposed to dock with the main unit of the Tiangong Station called Tianhe, which was put into orbit on April 29.

This unit constitutes the station’s command center and the place of residence of the astronauts. It is in a low orbit at an altitude ranging between 350 and 390 km.

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The three astronauts have many tasks in front of them, from maintaining and installing equipment, going out to space, preparing for future construction missions, and the arrival of other crews.

China had decided to establish its own manned space base after the United States refused to allow it to participate in the International Space Station – which is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2024.

China has invested billions of dollars over decades in order to catch up with established space powers such as the United States and Russia. So far, it has managed to send humans into space and a probe to the moon, and last month, a robot belonging to it landed on Mars, in a very important space achievement.

FRANCE 24/AFP