China to launch first human spaceflight since 2016
A Chinese spacecraft will blast off from the Gobi Desert on a Long March rocket in the coming days, ferrying three men to an orbiting space module for a three-month stay, the first time China has sent humans into space for nearly five years.
Shenzhou-12, meaning “Divine Vessel”, will be the third of 11 missions needed to complete China’s space station by 2022. Among them, four will be missions with people on board, potentially propelling up to 12 Chinese astronauts into space – more than the 11 men and women that China has sent since 2003.
The craft will also carry into space the hopes of some in Earth’s most populous nation.
“The motherland is powerful,” one person wrote on Chinese social media, which has lit up with well-wishes for the Shenzhou-12 crew. “The launch is a gift to the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party.”
Chinese astronauts have had a relatively low international profile. A United States law banning NASA from any connection with China means its astronauts have not been to the more-than-two-decade-old International Space Station, visited by more than 240 men and women of various nationalities.
China, which aims to become a major spacefaring power by 2030, in May became the second country to put a rover on Mars, two years after landing the first spacecraft on the far side of the moon.
It also plans to put astronauts on the moon