President Xi Jinping on Monday led the country in celebrating the launch of China’s sixth manned space mission Shenzhou-11.
This is China’s longest manned space mission — the first time two astronauts from the country will stay in space for 30 days.
“The mission of the orbiting space lab Tiangong-2 and the Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft marks the first time that Chinese astronauts will stay in orbit for medium term,” Xi said in a message quoted by official Xinhua news agency.
Xi sent the message before he left for China from Goa where he attended the BRICS Summit over the weekend.
“The spacecraft, with male astronauts, Jing Haipeng (50) and Chen Dong (38), on board, was launched at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China’s Gobi desert at 7.30 am Beijing Time Monday atop a Long March-2F Y11 carrier rocket,” Xinhua reported.
The report added that the Shenzhou-11 will dock with Tiangong-2, and then the astronauts will enter the space lab.
Of the two astronauts, commander Jing Haipeng was a member of the earlier Shenzhou-7 and Shenzhou-9 missions. For Chen, it is his first space mission.
Xi urged staff of the mission to carry on their work to guarantee that China’s designated targets will be realised.
He encouraged them to “constantly break new ground for the manned space programme, so that Chinese people will take bigger steps and march further in space probe, to make new contribution to the building of China into a space power”.
In a separate report, state media said maritime monitoring vessels Yuanwang-5, Yuanwang-6 and Yuanwang-7 have arrived at their designated areas in the Pacific Ocean to track the space journey of Shenzhou-11.
“China has seven Yuanwang space-tracking ships, which have carried out some 70 expeditions and travelled more than 1.5 million nautical miles,” it said.