China has launched the Shenzhou XI manned spacecraft on Monday morning to transport two astronauts to the Tiangong II space laboratory. The spacecraft left the Jiuquan Satellite launch center in Northwest China at 7:30 in the morning atop a Long March 2F rocket.
Read more: China To Launch Manned Spacecraft On Monday
The spacecraft will travel for two days before docking with the Tiangong II. It is carrying two male astronauts – 49-year-old Jing Haipeng and 37-year-old Chen Dong. Then the astronauts will enter the space lab and stay there for 30 days, which will be the longest space stay by Chinese astronauts. According to Wu Ping, deputy director of the China Manned Space Agency, the main tasks of the Shenzhou XI mission are to test rendezvous and docking technologies for the country’s planned space station, to verify the life-support capability of the spacecraft-space lab combination as well as conduct scientific research and test engineering experiments. Prior to the Shenzhou XI, China had sent five spacecraft and 10 astronauts to space since 2003, when it lifted the Shenzhou V to carry the nation’s first astronaut Yang Liwei, who is now a senior space official, into space.