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China launched Shenzhou-12 manned spacecraft on historic mission

Foto: Kevin Frayer / Getty Images

China launched a spacecraft on Thursday (17) (16 in Brazil), transporting three astronauts to part of a space station still under construction, for the longest stay in low Earth orbit ever undertaken by any Chinese citizen.

A Long March 2F rocket carrying Shenzhou-12, or “holy ship,” blasted off for the Tianhe Space Station module at 9:22 a.m. Beijing time (0122 GMT) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest Gansu Province.

Shenzhou-12 is the third of 11 missions – four of which will be manned – required to complete China’s first full-fledged space station. Construction began in April with the launch of Tianhe, the first and largest of the three units.

Astronauts Ni Haisheng, 56, Liu Beoming, 54, and Tang Hongbo, 45, will work and reside in Tianhe, home to the future space station, for three months.

While staying in Tianhe, which looks like a cylinder, slightly larger than a city bus, the three men will test the unit’s technologies, including its life support system.

Men will also be observed to see how they behave in space both physically and psychologically over a long period of time. The next mission to the space station will last six months

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