Beijing: The first crew of China’s new space station is ready to launch this week, which is the latest step in Beijing’s ambitious space power plan.
This mission is China’s first manned spaceflight in the past five years. This is related to the government’s prestige, as it plans to celebrate the 100th birthday of the ruling Communist Party on July 1 by propagating a blitzkrieg.
According to experts familiar with the matter, the Long March 2F rocket carrying three astronauts on the Shenzhou XII spacecraft will lift off from a base in the Gobi Desert in northwest China on Thursday.
They plan to stay at Tiangong Station for three months, which is China’s longest manned space mission to date, including spacewalks.
Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said the astronaut’s goal is to “build a new home in space and be ready to use it.”
“It s a practical goal rather than a groundbreaking one.”
The Long March rocket, with the Shenzhou craft attached, was moved to the launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center last week, according to the Chinese space agency.
Shenzhou-12 will dock with the main section of the Tiangong station, named Tianhe, which was placed in orbit on April 29. A cargo craft last month transported fuel, food and equipment for the crewed mission.
Another 11 missions are planned over the next year and a half to complete the construction of Tiangong in orbit, including the attachment of solar panels and two laboratory modules.
Three of those missions will carry astronauts for crew rotation.
“Keeping the station up and running smoothly involves much detailed and complicated work, as we saw on the International Space Station during its early days,” said Chen Lan, an analyst at GoTaikonauts, which specialises in China s space programme.
“In fact, ISS construction was much slower” than the Chinese station.
According to the China Space Administration, once completed, the Tiangong will have a mass of about 90 tons and is expected to have a service life of at least 10 years.
It will be much smaller than the International Space Station and similar to the Soviet Mir space station, which was launched in 1986 and decommissioned in 2001.