China’s space program is checking off another first. This Sunday, China launched two astronauts into orbit on a mission that will take an entire month. This is going to be the longest time that a Chinese astronaut has spent in space. Started in 2003, when the first Chinese citizen went into space, China’s space adventure is ticking off accomplishment after accomplishment. This mission is in preparation for when China is going to have its own space station. So the future looks bright for Chinese space exploration.
China Sends Shenzhou 11 with Two Astronauts into Orbit
The two military pilots that China sent into space went on Long March 2F rocket. Commander Jing Haipeng and flight engineer Chen Dong are going to China’s research lab Tiangong 2. Their mission in the research lab is to conduct experiments and go through various procedures in space. The Chinese space program needs this information to apply it on its future space station.
Commander Jing Haipeng had flown two other space missions. But for flight engineer Chen Dong it was his first time in space. The two astronauts went up in the spacecraft called Shenzhou 11 for a ride into orbit that took about ten minutes.
The launch went smoothly. Shenzhou 11 was launched at the Jiuquan satellite launching center located in the Gobi Desert. Liftoff took place at sunrise on Monday, at the optimal time for the spacecraft to reach its target in orbit.
The Long March 2F rocket went into space at 23:30:31 GMT (7:30:31 p.m. EDT) on Sunday. The rocket stands 191 feet tall (or 58 meters). For the launch, the rocket utilized four boosters that used a liquid combination of hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide for fuel.
China’s News Channel Broadcasts Flight into Orbit
China’s news channel, CCTV broadcast the liftoff live. The live footage showed Shenzhou 11 ascend through the clear sky. There was a camera inside the cabin of Shenzhou 11. So people at home could see the two astronauts. Commander Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong gave a salute just moments before the launch. During their journey into orbit they occasionally waved and smiled. Most of the time, though, they were busy monitoring the cockpit displays.
The four boosters and the first stage engine fell away from Shenzhou 11 during the first three minutes. The aerodynamic fairing fell away later, as the second stage of the rocket started. After going through the mainland of China, the second stage engine switched off and deployed Chinese spacecraft Shenzhou 11. There was live video broadcast from an on-board camera. It showed the vehicles successfully above Earth.
After a few minutes, Shenzhou 11 deployed its solar array wings. The spacecraft is now going to go after the research module. Estimates say that Shenzhou 11 will reach Tiangong 2 in two days.
General Zhang Youxia is the chief commander of China’s human spaceflight program. The program is part of China’s military so it is the military that runs it. General Zhang Youxia said that the launch was a success.
“The rocket is flying according to its original plan, and the Shenzhou spacecraft has entered into its preliminary orbit.”
Said General Zhang Youxia to the press.
The general added that the crew of the spacecraft are in great condition and the two solar panels are functional.
Image source: here.