China’s Shenzhou 11 docks at Tiangong 2 space station

Media captionAstronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong enter the space station

Two Chinese astronauts have arrived at the Tiangong 2 space laboratory, in a mission aimed at developing China’s capabilities as a space power.

The Shenzhou-11 spacecraft blasted off from northern China on Monday, and docked with Tiangong 2 at 03:24 Beijing time (19:24 GMT Tuesday).

Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong will be spending the next 30 days in space conducting experiments.

It marks the longest space mission by Chinese astronauts.

The docking took place 393km (244 miles) above Earth and the remotely controlled procedure lasted about two hours, according to state media.

Image copyright
Reuters

Image caption

The docking took place in the early hours of Wednesday morning Beijing time

State television on Wednesday morning carried live video of the docking and arrival of the astronauts, which saw them floating through a narrow 1m-long, 80cm-wide passageway into the lab.

CCTV quoted Liu Ning, an official with China’s main space programme contractor, as saying: “The door of Tiangong is a little bit troublesome… The astronaut needs to go through it horizontally and then raise (his) head to open the door.”

$2.2bn

China’s estimated annual spending on space programmes

  • 181 Chinese satellites in space

  • 11 Chinese people have travelled in space – often known as taikonauts

  • 2003 The year of China’s first crewed space mission

  • 2020 The year China plans its own space station

China is the third country, after the United States and Russia, to carry out its own crewed missions. The Shenzhou-11 is its sixth.

It plans to create its own permanent space station by 2022 following its exclusion from the International Space Station. It will expand Tiangong 2 over the next few years by sending up additional modules.

China has poured significant funding and efforts into its space programme, and plans to launch at least 20 space missions this year.

Image copyright
AP

Image caption

The Shenzhou-11 took off from a launchpad in northern China on Monday

China’s Shenzhou 11 docks at Tiangong 2 space station}

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