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China launches 3 astronauts to Tiangong space station

China launched launched three astronauts to Tiangong space station on Tuesday. Photo from CCTV
China launched launched three astronauts to Tiangong space station on Tuesday. Photo from CCTV

Nov. 29 (UPI) -- China on Tuesday launched its six-month Shenzhou 15 mission, carrying three astronauts to the country's newly completed space station.

The Long March 2F rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert at 10:08 a.m. Crew members Fei Junlong, Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu make up the mission.

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The Shenzhou 15 mission will mark the start of full operations aboard Tiangong, with the trio lined up to conduct more than 100 experiments using 24 specially designed science cabinets installed in the new Wentian and Mengtian modules, according to Space.com.

With the arrival of the three astronauts, the Tiangong space station will be continuously occupied. Eventually Chinese officials plan to put astronauts on the moon.

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"It will not take a long time; we can achieve the goal of manned moon landing," Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China's crewed space program, told the New York Times. China has been developing a lunar lander, he added, without giving a date when it might be used.

Shenzhou 15 is the final mission of 11 launches planned to construct Tiangong and bring it to full operation. The first mission was the launch of the Tianhe core module in April 2021, just under 18 months ago.

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Tuesday's launch comes just two weeks after NASA's launch of the Artemis I rocket. The mission is the first flight test of NASA's SLS with Orion that officials said will provide the foundation for human deep space exploration as well as a demonstration of their capabilities to return humanity to the moon.

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The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket carrying an Orion spacecraft lifts off on the maiden flight of NASA's Artemis Program from Complex 39-B at the Kennedy Space Center on November 16, 2022. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo

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