First manned mission to Chinese space station takes off

The success of the mission is a matter of prestige for Beijing, after Washington’s refusal to let the Chinese participate in the International Space Station (ISS).

The first manned mission sent by China to its space station under construction took off Thursday, June 17 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 is expected to have a lifespan of at least ten years in space.

In a context of tension with the West, the success of the mission is a matter of prestige for Beijing, which is preparing to celebrate on July 1 the centenary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). China 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, even though NASA has mentioned a possible extension beyond 2028.

On Wednesday, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet and his American teammate Shane Kimbrough carried out a more than seven-hour spacewalk without a hitch to deploy a next-generation solar panel outside the ISS.

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