China speeds up space race with first crew sent to new space station

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Three men, Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo, will spend three months aboard the Tianhe module some 380km (236 miles) above the Earth. The trio took off in the Shenzhou-12 capsule, atop its Long March 2F rocket on Thursday. It marks China’s longest crewed space mission to date and the first in nearly five years.

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Tianhe’s take off marks China’s longest crewed space mission to date and the first in nearly five years.

The crew took off from the Jiuquan satellite launch centre in the Gobi desert at 9:22am local time (1:22am GMT).

The primary objective for Commander Nie Haishen and his team on the Shenzhou-12 mission is to make the 22.5-tonne Tianhe module operational.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Mr Nie said he has a “lot of expectations” for the crew.

He added: “We need to set up our new home in space and test a series of new technologies. So, the mission is tough and challenging.

“I believe with the three of us working closely together, doing thorough and accurate operations, we can overcome our challenges.

“We have the confidence to complete the mission.”

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