China has marched exceptionally well on its ultimate goal of building a space station and its latest major step was the recent launch of Shenzhou 11 with two astronauts on board. The duo will be living in space for 30 days and during the time will carry out a range of experiments all the while providing vital data that will be highly important for China for its future missions. The launch and docking of the spacecraft proves that China has what it takes to carry out complex space missions including manned space flights. So, while the country has proven that it is becoming a major player in space, let’s get to know Shenzhou 11 and what’s it all about.
Under the latest mission, two Chinese astronauts – 49-year-old Jing Haipeng and 37-year-old Chen Dong – will spend over 30 days in Space to test complex’s ability to support human life. Jing has been into space twice in the years 2008 and 2012. Jing will also celebrate his 50th birthday in the orbit. They will also conduct medical and scientific experiments. China maintains that this mission as well as its other space missions are for peaceful purpose.
This is not the first time that China has launched manned missions, but effectively the sixth time; however, the duration of the latest mission is what makes it one of the most important. Back in 2013 three Chinese astronauts spent 15 days in orbit and docked with a space laboratory, the Tiangong 1. The Tiangong 1 experimental space station launched in 2011 went out of service in March after docking with three visiting spacecraft and extending its mission for two years.
Following the attachment of two experiment modules, the completed station is set to begin full operations in 2022 and will run for at least a decade. China’s space program also opened its massive fourth spacecraft launch site at Wenchang on China’s southernmost island province of Hainan in June. It was inaugurated with the launch of the newly developed Long March 7 rocket that was hailed as a breakthrough in the use of safer, more environmentally friendly fuels.
China is currently developing the Long March 5 heavy-lift rocket needed to launch the Tiangong 2’s additional components and other massive payloads. China also plans to land a rover on Mars by 2020, attempting to recreate the success of the U.S. Viking 1 mission that landed a rover on the planet four decades ago. The country’s space program plans a total of 20 missions this year.