China poised for space station mission

China is to launch two men into orbit on Monday morning as it continues to develop its ability to explore space.

The astronauts will take off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northern China, Chinese officials said.

The plan is for them to dock with and then spend 30 days on board the Tiangong 2 space station testing its ability to support life.

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 named as Jing Haipeng, 49, who has already been in space twice, and 37-year-old Chen Dong.

Chinese astronauts Jin Haipeng (L) and Chen Dong (R) on the eve of their mission to dock with the country's space station, 16 October 2016
BBC: The astronauts Jin Haipeng (l) and Chen Dong will spend 30 days in space

They will blast off at 07:30 local time (23:30 GMT) on board a Shenzhou 11 spacecraft lifted by a Long March-2F rocket.

 

China continues to develop its space programme. It has already conducted a space walk and is only the third country after Russia and the US to carry out its own crewed space missions.

In 2013 China successfully landed its uncrewed Yutu rover on the Moon.

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