In the last month and a half, China has launched the core capsule of the new Tiangong space station and supplies. On Thursday, three astronauts were catapulted into low Earth orbit and successfully docked with the new space station launched in April, according to Nikkei.
The trio of astronauts - Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming, and Tang Hongbo - were transported in the Shenzhou-12 or "divine vessel" spacecraft on top of a Long March 2F at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the country's northwestern Gobi Desert Thursday morning. By late afternoon local time, state broadcaster CCTV reported the craft had docked with the core capsule.
This is the first time China has launched humans into space in five years and the seventh since 2003. The country has been banned from the International Space Station (ISS) since 2011, when Congress, under the Obama administration, passed a law that prevented Americans from working with the Chinese space program due to national security risks.
The launch of #China’s first manned mission to its #space station. It’s pretty incredible what humans can do. The rocket’s chief designer told me after so much work, she was sad to see it go... but ‘thrilled’ that for 10 key minutes ‘it did its duty’.— Janis Mackey Frayer (@janisfrayer) June 17, 2021
This was my view.@NBCNews pic.twitter.com/ofDNV8XXU5
The three astronauts will be living on the 90-metric-ton T-shaped space station called Tiangong, or Heavenly Palace, for 90 days. The new space station is still under construction as there are eight more missions to expand it.
WATCH: China’s Shenzhou 12 docking to Tiangong Space Station Core Cabin Module— ASB News / MILITARY〽️ (@ASBMilitary) June 17, 2021
The launch was broadcast live on Chinese television and social media, attracting tens of millions of viewers.
This is another milestone for China as there are now two space stations operating in low Earth orbit. The ISS is nearing its working life, and Russia will soon withdraw from ISS cooperation in 2025
Another launch is set for September. That crew will replace the current trio onboard the space station.
For President Xi Jinping, the new space station represents power and his vision to dominate the world and space.
The great power competition between the US and China, the two largest economies and largest military spenders, means space is becoming the next battleground.