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China Sends Astronauts To Its Longest Space Mission

Travelers Today       By    Joana Dyan Ordonez

Updated: Oct 18, 2016 06:04 PM EDT

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china, Shenzhou 11, Tiangong-1, Tiangong-2, Jing Haipeng, Chen Dong

China's Shenzhou-11 Spacecraft also known as the "heavenly vessel" is the country's longest-ever crewed space mission.

According to CNN, it was launched on the 17th of October from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert.

China sent two astronauts into space to dock with an orbiting space lab, Tiangong-2 space lab, which was launched last month.

The two astronauts on board the spacecraft are Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong.

This has consequently marked a crucial step toward the country's ambition to build and operate its first space station by 2022.

Jing and Chen will remain in space for a total of 33 days. About 30 of those days spent will be about conducting experimentations related to medicine, physics and biology in the space lab, as reported by CNN.

China's ultimate goal is to have a permanent 20-ton space station, which is expected to be sent into orbit in 2022. The Tiangong-2, and its predecessor Tiangong-1, are prototypes of the same.

China aims to send its space station into orbit two years before the International Space Station (ISS) retires in 2024, according to state news agency Xinhua. China is certainly pressing ahead with its ambitious space plans.

The world's second-largest economy has spent billions in the past decade to compete in a space race with the U.S. and Russia, as well as Asian rivals India and Japan, according to further reports by NDTV.

President Xi Jinping congratulated the successful launch and called it a milestone in China's work on manned space mission.

"We still have a long way to go" to accomplish our goals of discovering the secrets of space and making China strong in space exploration, he said in a congratulatory note read at the press conference.

President Xi also encouraged them to "constantly break new ground for the manned space program, so that Chinese people will take bigger steps and march further in space probe, to make new contribution to the building of China into a space power."

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