Liftoff of the first manned mission to the Chinese space station

 Steph Deschamps / June 17, 2021

The first manned mission sent by China to its space station under construction took off Thursday with three astronauts on board.

 

In a huge plume of gray smoke, the Long March 2F rocket left its launch pad at the Jiuquan Space Launch Center in the Gobi Desert (northwest).

 

The three astronauts will spend three months in the first module of the station, which should have a life of at least ten years in space.

 

In a context of tension with the West, the success of the mission is a question of prestige for Beijing, which is preparing to celebrate the centenary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on July 1.

 

China has resolved to build its own space station after the United States refused to let it participate in the International Space Station (ISS).

 

The latter -- which brings together the United States, Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan -- is due to retire in 2024, although NASA has mentioned a possible extension beyond 2028.

 

On Wednesday, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet and his American crewmate Shane Kimbrough safely completed a more than seven-hour spacewalk to deploy a next-generation solar array outside the ISS.

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