Shenzhou-12 manned moored at Chinese space station Tiangong

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More six hours after being launched from China, the Shenzhou-12 manned spacecraft was moored today in the first section of the Chinese space station assembling Beijing amid a technological rivalry with Washington.

This is the first manned flight made by China for almost five years. The three astronauts of the mission, whose names were only revealed yesterday, Wednesday, will remain in space for three months. Chinese state television broadcast that they had successfully entered the space station’s cabin. They are Nei Heiseng, 56, Liu Boming, 54, and Tang Hongbo, 45.

In the context of tensions with the West, the success of the mission is a matter of prestige for Beijing, which is preparing to celebrate the centennial of the Chinese Communist Party on July 1.

Shenzhou-12: Tiangong will be a competitor of the International Space Station

This afternoon (local time), the Chinese manned space agency announced the “successful” mooring of the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft at the Tiangong (Celestial Palace) space station, which will be a competitor of the International Space Station.

Six hours earlier, the Large March 2F rocket was launched at 09:22 (04:22 Greek time) from the launch pad of the Jichuan Space Launch Center in the Gobi Desert (northwest China) before being launched ten minutes later.

Chinese public television CCTV broadcast images of astronauts smiling as they lifted the face of their uniforms as they entered orbit while a pencil hovered in weightlessness.

“The solar panels were developing normally and we can say that this launch was successful,” said Zang Zifen, director of the launch center.

The Tianche spacecraft was launched into low-Earth orbit at the end of April

A control center and living space for astronauts, the Tianche spacecraft was put into low-Earth orbit (at an altitude of 350-390 km) at the end of April.

In it, the astronauts will carry out maintenance and installation of materials, will make space trips, will prepare missions of future constructions and the stays of future crews.

The “patriotic dimension”

Named Tiangong (“Heavenly Palace”), the Chinese space station, when completed, will be similar in size to the old Soviet Mir space station (1986-2001). Its lifespan will be at least ten years.

The Shenzhou-12 mission is the third of 11 required to build the plant from 2021 to 2022. A total of four manned missions are planned.

In addition to Tianhe, which has already been installed, the two remaining cubicles to complete the station (which will be laboratories) will be sent into space in 2022. The latter will allow experiments in biotechnology, medicine, astronomy and space technologies.

China has decided to build its own space station after the US refused to allow it to participate in the International Space Station.

The latter – which includes the United States, Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan – is set to “retire” in 2024, although NASA has spoken of a possible extension beyond 2028.

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