China to send 3 astronauts to space station tomorrow

Crew on board the Shenzhou XII spacecraft – Tang Hongbo, Nie Haisheng and Liu Boming (from left to right). [Photo/Xinhua]

CHINA, June 16 (China Daily/ANN) - China will launch its seventh manned space mission on Thursday morning to deploy three astronauts to the core module of the nation's permanent space station, according to a project leader.

Ji Qiming, assistant to the director of the China Manned Space Agency, told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region that the crew on board the Shenzhou XII spacecraft – Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo – will be lifted atop a Long March 2F carrier rocket at 9:22 am at the launch complex and will become the first occupants of the core module after their spacecraft docks with the module, which is traveling in a low-Earth orbit hundreds of kilometers above the ground.

Ji said that during their three-month stay inside the module, named Tianhe, or Harmony of Heavens, the all-male crew is tasked with testing and verifying plans, technologies and equipment for crucial elements in space station's construction and operation, such as astronauts' long-term mission arrangements, life-support system, in-orbit resupply, extravehicular activity as well as spacecraft maintenance and repair.

They are also assigned to carry out other space tasks and experiments.

Ji said that after Nie's crew finishes their three-month tenure, they will return to the Shenzhou XII and then drive the spacecraft to depart from Tianhe and fly back to Earth to land on the Dongfeng Landing Site in Inner Mongolia.

He noted that Nie, who has already flown twice in space, will be the mission commander, adding that the mission's alternative crew members are Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu.

Through this mission, the manned space agency will be able to accumulate experience and check the capability, performance and compatibility of systems involved in the space station program, according to the official.

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