Historic flight: China launched the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft with three astronauts

On Thursday, June 17, China launched the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft with three astronauts to an orbital station under construction.

According to Reuters, this will be the longest stay in low-Earth orbit for any Chinese citizen.

The rocket launched at 9:22 a.m. Beijing time from the Jiuquan launch site in northwest Gansu province. On board were Shenzhou-6 and Shenzhou-10 mission crew members Ne Haisheng, Shenzhou-7 crew member Liu Bomin, and Tang Hongbo, who was flying for the first time in his career.

According to the plan, Shenzhou-12 will make a quick docking with the main Tianhe module, forming a common structure with the station’s main compartment and the Tianzhou-2 cargo ship. The astronauts will move to the Tianhe compartment, where they will stay for three months. They will test the module’s technology, including its life support system. The mission crew will return to Earth in September in a special capsule.

This is the third of 11 missions, four of which will be with the crew needed to complete China’s first full space station. Construction began in April with the launch of Tianhe, the first and largest of the three modules.