China launches 30-day manned mission to test space station

BEIJING, Oct. 16 (UPI) — Two Chinese astronauts lifted off for the longest manned mission in the history of China’s space program — a full month.

The Shenzhou-11 spacecraft blasted toward orbit Sunday night and is expected to dock with the Tiangong-2 space station in two days to start a 30-day mission conducting experiments and testing the station’s systems.

“The rocket is flying according to its original plan and the Shenzhou spacecraft has entered into its preliminary orbit,” said Gen. Zhang Youxia, chief commander of China’s human space program. “The solar panel has been unfolded and the crew is in great condition. Hereby I announce the launch of Shenzhou-11 is a complete success.”

During their 30 days in space, the astronauts will test computers and propulsion and life support systems aboard the Tiangong-2. The crew will also carry out science experiments, monitor changes in their own bodies, conduct three student experiments, plant growth studies and test orbital repair techniques.

Work at the lab is part of China’s plans to build a permanent space station in 2018, in addition to planning a lunar probe for the far side of the moon in 2018, unmanned mission to Mars in 2020 and a manned lunar mission in 2025.

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