China sent two astronauts on one-month long space mission

China sent two astronauts on one-month long space missionChina has launched two men into orbit in a project designed to develop its ability to explore space, BBC reported on Monday.

The astronauts took off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northern China. They will dock with the experimental Tiangong 2 space lab and spend 30 days there, the longest stay in space by Chinese astronauts.

This and previous launches are seen as pointers to possible crewed missions to the Moon or Mars.

An earlier Tiangong - or Heavenly Palace - space station was decommissioned earlier this year after docking with three rockets.

The astronauts on this latest mission were Jin Haipeng, 49, who has already been to space twice, and 37-year-old Chen Dong.

The spacecraft, Shenzhou-11, took off from at 07:30 local time on Monday (23:30 GMT), lifted by a Long March-2F rocket.

The astronauts will spend the next month conducting experiments on the Tiangong 2.

In a pre-mission interview with online portal China News, Jin Haipeng said: "There is definitely some pressure with this mission. I've even been dreaming about it at night."

"I'm not thinking about the bouquets, the applause or the glory. What I've been thinking more about is whether I have grasped all the knowledge and skills, whether I have addressed the weak areas," he added.

In a congratulatory statement to the astronauts carried by state media, President Xi Jinping said he hoped they "vigorously advance the spirit of space travel".

He added that the mission would "enable China to take larger and further steps in space exploration, and make new contributions to building up China as a space power".

China has poured significant funding and efforts into its space programme, and plans to launch at least 20 space missions this year.

It is only the third country - after Russia and the US - to carry out its own crewed missions. In 2013 it successfully landed its un-crewed Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, rover on the Moon.
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