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China launches Shenzhou-17 crew to Tiangong Space Station

China's Shenzhou-17 manned spaceflight mission launched three crew members to the Tiangong Space Station Thursday morning. Photo by Alex Plavevski/EPA-EFE
China's Shenzhou-17 manned spaceflight mission launched three crew members to the Tiangong Space Station Thursday morning. Photo by Alex Plavevski/EPA-EFE

Oct. 26 (UPI) -- China launched three astronauts into space on their way to the Tiangong Space Station Thursday morning from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China.

Commander Tang Hongbo, operator Tang Shengjie and system operator Jiang Xinlin made up the Shenzhou-17 mission, which will take over for the Shenzhou-16 crew, who will be returning home.

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Hongbo is making his second spaceflight while Shengjie and Xinlin are making their first flights. The crew will make "experimental station repair/maintenance," but Chinese officials did not give details of the work that will be done.

"Through preliminary inspections, we have found that the solar wings of the space station had been hit by tiny space particles several times, causing minor damages," said Lin Xiqiang, deputy director of the China Manned Space Agency.

"Of course, we already took this into consideration in the design stage. At present, all functionality and performance indicators of the space station meet requirements."

The CMSA said the crew will monitor the functioning and performance of the space station while making the repairs. Lin called the work the astronauts will be doing "very challenging."

The space agency started building the new station in April 2021 when the CMSA put its core module into orbit. The space construction has included inside work as well as spacewalks outside the station as well.

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