The first manned mission sent by China to its under-construction space station took off on Thursday with three astronauts.
In a huge plume of brown smoke, the Long March 2F rocket left its launch pad at Jiuquan Space Launch Center in the Gobi Desert (northwest).
The three astronauts will spend three months in the station’s first module, which is expected to have a lifespan of at least ten years in space.
In the context of tensions with the West, the success of the mission is a matter of prestige for Beijing, which is preparing to celebrate the centenary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on July 1.
China resolved to build its own space station after the United States refused to participate in the International Space Station (ISS).
The latter – which brings together the United States, Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan – is due to be retired in 2024, even though NASA has mentioned a possible expansion beyond 2028.
On Wednesday, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet and his American partner Shane Kimbrough conducted a more than seven-hour spacewalk without a hitch to deploy the next generation of solar panels outside the ISS.
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