A two-time veteran astronaut will head China’s longest manned space mission yet when the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft lifts off on Monday as part of a bigger programme to build a space station.
A Long March-2F rocket would blast off with the spacecraft from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre on the edge of the Gobi Desert at about 7.30am, state-run Xinhua quoted Wu Ping, mission spokeswoman and deputy director of the manned space engineering office, as saying on Sunday.
It is the country’s first manned space mission in more than three years – the Shenzhou-10 was launched in early 2013.
Wu said Major General Jing Haipeng would lead the 33-day mission, and be accompanied by Colonel Chen Dong.
The Tiangong 2 is a prototype for the country’s planned permanent space station, which it hopes to have in orbit in 2022, two years before the International Space Station goes out of service. It would leave China as the only country with a permanent space presence then.
The other ISS modules could stay in orbit until 2028.