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China launches its longest space mission

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BEIJING: China’s fifth-ever manned mission has successfully blasted off from a location in the Gobi desert and will now head to the country’s prototype orbital station, where the crew will spend 14 days – a Chinese space record.

The Shenzhou-10 craft, carrying two male astronauts, and the second Chinese woman to go to space, will dock with the experimental Tiangong-1 space lab 40 hours after lift-off.

Beijing sees the multi-billion-dollar space programme as a marker of its rising global stature and mounting technical expertise — as well as the ruling Communist Party’s success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation.

China first sent a human into space only in 2003 and its capabilities still lag behind the US and Russia, but its programmes are highly ambitious and includes plans to land a man on the moon and build a station orbiting earth by 2020.

At the same time the United States, long the leader in the field, has scaled back some of its projects, such as retiring its space shuttle fleet.

Independent space analyst Morris Jones, who is based in Sydney, Australia, described the Shenzhou-10 as “more complex than any mission China has attempted before”.

“I think the fact that they’re flying a very long and complex mission shows that China’s astronaut programme has reached a full degree of maturity,” he said.

“They are very steadily laying the groundwork that they will need to build their own space station.”

Asad Haroon
A netpreneur, blogger and above all; A Human :) Asad tweets from @aghaasadharoon and can also be approached on Google+

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